Book Review: The Cost of Living – Deborah Levy [Memoir]

A bit of a confession, I was actually sent this book by Penguin some time ago (maybe over eighteen months?) and I’ve only just got around to reading it. It wasn’t something I requested and Deborah Levy was a name I only vaguely knew. So it sat on my shelf, until one day, I decided to see what it was all about.

Wow. Just, wow. Deborah Levy – where have you been all my life?



To separate from love is to live a risk-free life. What’s the point of that sort of life? I was living in the Republic of Writing and Children. I was not Simone de Beauvoir, after all. No. I had got off the train at a different stop (marriage) and stepped on to a different platform (children). She was my muse but I was certainly not hers. Yet we had bought a ticket for the same train. The destination was to head towards a freer life.

That is a vague destination, no one knows what it looks like when we get there. It is a journey without end, but I did not know that then.


I started writing this review weeks and weeks ago but failed to find the words to describe it. A few weeks on from the book, quite honestly, I do not feel any different but will try to do Levy’s writing justice.

At its most basic The Cost of Living is about Levy’s rediscovery of herself after separating from her partner at the age of 50. At the height of its complexity, it is about the roles of women in society and how they are formed to be wives and mothers, with the loss of their sense of self. If you’ve ever read anything by Woolf or Plath then Levy’s writing will be familiar but more relatable for modern life.

Levy’s writing is, quite frankly, an art form. Having recently gotten over my fear of annotating books (only in pencil…) my copy of The Cost of Living is awash with scrawls and highlights. She takes encounters that last seconds and are quickly forgotten and puts them under a spotlight to show their true meaning, like this incident she witnessed on the Eurostar:

“He asked the teenager if she’d mind moving her computer so that he had more space at the table. She moved it to her lap. This was a small rearrangement of space, but its outcome meant she had entirely removed herself from the table to make space for his newspaper, sandwich and apple.”

The Cost of Living, page 156

It was lines like these that gave me goosebumps. It is such a simple yet powerful recollection.

The position I am in now is that I want to read everything Levy has ever read, and I fully intend to do that. The Cost of Living is the second book in her series of memoirs but I am confident they can be read in any order without any impact on the experience.

This would make a fantastic book for reading groups as there is so much to talk about. Highly recommended, Levy will be coming with me everywhere I go from now on.

Many thanks to Penguin for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Order now!

You can support your local bookshop by buying The Cost of Living through them directly, or via Hive or*.

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What do you think of The Cost of Living? Will you be reading it? Let me know in the comments below.

Wishing you a wonderfully bookish week,


One thought on “Book Review: The Cost of Living – Deborah Levy [Memoir]

  1. Wonderful quote used. I just finished this and both loved it and was frustrated by it in equal measure. I agree it’s not easy to write about and like you my copy has scrawl all through it. Thought provoking indeed, I’m soon to start the third in the series.

    Liked by 1 person

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