Real Estate, Deborah Levy


The clue is in the title in this final version of Deborah Levy’s living memoir, in which she ponders the ideas of physical homes and authentic legacies as her daughters grow up and leave ‘home’ and Levy turns sixty.

She admits that she covets houses and homes much grander than she will ever be able to afford. She is of an age and level of success where so many of her contemporaries own more than one such home. She has succeeded in creating a home for her family, but what now? What will she own, and what will she leave behind?

She cares for a plant as if it is her new baby. This, I imagine, is what I may get from a puppy. I hope so. She is writing The Man Who Saw Everything, and travels the world attending interesting literary events and meeting interesting people. Her saviour arrives in the form of a fellowship in Paris. She is able to take herself there and find a new way of living, or at least look for one.

“Perhaps the cost of true love is that it has to be free to fly away. And to return. Parents do not give children their freedom. They don’t have to ask for it. They take it anyway, because they must. They are not our hostages, though I remember feeling there was some sort of mysterious ransom I had to offer my mother in exchange for my freedom. Her children, if she loves them, are inside her, where they started life. It is a mystery to me to even write this sentence, never mind feel it to be true.” p.153

In the end, she decides something she probably knew all along, that her books are her real estate and while she will leave the royalties from these to her daughters, they are not private property. Anyone is permitted to play on their grass - a nod to Sylvia Plath’s telling off by an Oxford porter when she dared walk on its grass.

Buy the book! (Penguin, £10.99)