These days reading is difficult. Sinking into fictional worlds has become more difficult than it used to be because the real world is so nightmarish it follows me into the fictional one. Deborah Levy’s The Cost of Living came my way precisely at the time I most needed it to.
Being a woman in a patriarchal world is difficult. Society expects you to fit into the narrow definition of what constitutes a woman and should your curves spill out, people will judge you and find names for you. Levy’s observations about how when women become wives their names are erased hit me quiet hard. She also relates circumstances when a woman’s narrative is dismissed or swept aside for the more asinine monologue belonging to a man, any man, who thinks his experiences trump a woman’s.
The phantom of femininity is an illusion, a delusion, a societal hallucination. She is a very trickly character to play and it is a role (sacrifice, endurance, cheerful suffering) that has made some women go mad.
Are we ever done becoming ourselves? Like Levy, whose marriage breaks up when she is 50 and she is no longer the person she spent so many years becoming, we, too, hit unexpected obstacles in our becoming. Our lives shape us much more than we shape our lives.
The Cost of Livingmeanders on topics such as divorce, love, femininity and feminism, motherhood, death, grief, writing, and living in a gentle and introspective manner. Reading Levy’s thoughts is akin to talking to a close friend about life and living. It is tumultuous and at the same time not. I enjoyed it and will be returning to The Cost of Living time and again to remind myself that living is difficult but I want to do it anyway. Recommended.