cover image Real Estate: A Living Autobiography

Real Estate: A Living Autobiography

Deborah Levy. Bloomsbury, $20 (304p) ISBN 978-1-635-57221-6

Levy (The Cost of Living) brings her trilogy of autobiographies home in this incandescent meditation on writing, womanhood, and the places that nurture both. From her shabby flat in North London, she imagines a dream property: “a grand old house with the pomegranate tree in the garden,” and returns to this refrain throughout her delightful memoir-in-vignettes. Levy is 59 and single, and, with her youngest daughter off to university, takes a fellowship in Paris and contemplates the nature of middle-aged female freedom that includes, for her, a deep longing for an expansive kind of rootedness. “Domestic space,” she observes, “if it is not an affliction bestowed on us by patriarchy, can be a powerful space. To make it work for women and children is the challenge.” She accumulates treasures for the “unreal estate” of her dreams, contemplates a friend’s extramarital affair, rents a crumbling old home in Greece, and encounters sexist male writers. Despite what physically occurs, this is a cerebral affair—Levy’s mind is both troubled and titillated by the slipperiness of time and place—and her wry wit and descriptive powers are more pleasurable than any plot. Eloquent and unapologetically frank, Levy’s astute narrative is a place worth lingering in. Agent: The Wylie Agency. (Aug.)