Deborah Levy (2016) Hot Milk.

Sophie Papastargiadis, aged 25, and her mother, Rose, aged 64, are in Almeria, Southern Spain. A desert where immigrants work long hours in greenhouses at well over one-hundred degree Celsius heat and in humid conditions to produce tomatoes for stores in Europe. They are not tourist. They have rented a small beach-front property. Rose has re-mortgaged her London house to attend the Gomez clinic in the hope of a cure that has left her unable to walk. Sophie is her legs.

Sophie is the narrator. She has given up studying for an Phd in Anthropology to become her mother’s carer. She is making a study of her mother’s illness     

‘History is the dark magician inside us, tearing at our liver.’

Rose’s medical history is the art of clinging to belief and disbelief. Like Carl Sagan’s baloney test about the ‘fire breathing dragon in my garage’, her symptoms are tested by Dr Gomez, but for every physical test, Rose offers an alternative view of why it hasn’t worked. She clings to her illness. Her daughter’s part of the fallout.

A Greek tragedy, like her marriage was, but with hints of matricide and rebellion.  

Dr Gomez seems like a charlatan. A purveyor of false beliefs and miracle cures. Yet, he warns Sophie not to begin limping after her mother. He tells her mother’s symptoms are ‘spectral, like a ghost, they come and go. There are no physiological symptoms’.

Rose depends on Sophie. Sophie has become dependent on her mother. An unvirtuous circle in the hellish heat of the Spanish sun in which something has got to give. Read on.