cover image The Cost of Living: A Working Autobiography

The Cost of Living: A Working Autobiography

Deborah Levy. Bloomsbury, $20 (160p) ISBN 978-1-63557-191-2

This slim, singular memoir by British playwright and poet Levy (Hot Milk) chronicles a brief period following the “shipwreck” of the London writer’s 20-year marriage. Levy, a Booker Prize finalist, moved from a large Victorian home to an apartment with her two young adult daughters, accepted an offer from an octogenarian friend of a small shed in which to write, and began to rebuild her life. In the process, she explores the role she has played in the past: that of the nurturing “architect” of family life. Now she hopes to reinvent herself as an independent woman who not only provides for her children, but who enjoys a new physical (e.g., she whizzes about on an electric bike) and creative energy in “the most professionally busy time” in her life. She is occasionally drawn back to her former life; memories make her long for the past (a sprig of rosemary, for example, makes her think of a garden she once planted in the family house), but don’t prevent her from moving forward. Levy describes writing as “looking, listening, and paying attention,” and she accomplishes these with apparent ease. Her descriptions of the people she meets, the conversations she overhears, and the nuances she perceives in relationships are keen and moving (about a man she has just met, “I objected to my male walking companion never remembering the names of women”). This timely look at how women are viewed (and often dismissed) by society will resonate with many readers, but particularly with those who have felt marginalized or undervalued. (July)