Real Estate: Deborah Levy’s home truths, a triumph of simplicity

Book review: Final volume of her ‘living biography’ hums with voracious curiosity

Deborah Levy:  ‘Not only does nothing escape her gaze, but there is no hierarchy.’ Photograph: Jane Thorburn

Deborah Levy: ‘Not only does nothing escape her gaze, but there is no hierarchy.’ Photograph: Jane Thorburn

In the opening of Real Estate, the third and final volume of her “living biography”, Deborah Levy buys a banana plant from a young woman outside Shoreditch High Street station. As she hands over the money, Levy imagines the vendor’s inky false eyelashes stretching “all the way from the bagel shops and grey cobblestones of East London to the deserts and mountains of New Mexico”. On the train-then-bus journey home with her unwieldy purchase, her thoughts flit from the egg-shaped fireplace she will have in her ideal home to artist Georgia O’Keeffe on flowers.

Approaching 60, there is the sense that Levy is making an inventory of what she has accumulated

It’s quintessential Levy. The languid yet precise prose, the fine mind she allows to wander through a series of ideas and connections before getting to the nub: she is in search of a house. In other hands this could read like a script for afternoon TV’s A Place in the Sun, but Levy’s ideal home is one she constructs and reconstructs in her imagination, what she calls her “unreal estate”.

The Irish Times
Please subscribe or sign in to continue reading.
The Irish Times

How can I keep reading?

You’ve reached an article that is only available to Irish Times subscribers.

Subscribe today and get the full picture for just €1 for the first month.

Subscribe No obligation, cancel any time.