Deborah Levy — Real Estate

“Sometimes the phrase she takes herself seriously is seen as a flaw, as if taking herself seriously indicates she has aspirations beyond her reach, as if she should lighten up and have a good laugh at her own hopes.”


I was so looking forward to this. Deborah Levy is one of my favourite authors and I loved the first two parts of her ‘living autobiography’, Things I Don’t Want To Know and The Cost of Living.

Each part of the trilogy is beautiful, dry and uplifting. Real Estate covers Levy’s life aged 59, (taking place while she is starting to write The Man Who Saw Everything). It marks another point of transition, following her divorce earlier in her fifties in book two, with her younger daughter now leaving home.

In this new era of freedom, Levy explores what it means to be a woman, writer, mother, friend. It is about the value of female perspectives; a refusal to be “real estate” in the patriarchy, and the power, wisdom and freedom unique to sisterhood. At a fundamental level, she is how I hope to be when I am 59 and inevitably going through some sort of existential crisis — reflective, kind to herself and, ultimately, self assured.

Unintentionally, I find myself in a small vein of women writers’ memoirs, specifically those written in late middle age. If ignoring older women’s perspectives is a timeless pursuit, the current fashion for dismissing what older feminists have to say is particularly depressing. Though a generation or so’s gap might make our contexts different, the sheer tonnage of patriarchy — finessed throughout all of human existence — means that what older feminists have to tell us will at the very least be worth listening to. If Levy’s Girls & Women café ever materialises, I will be first in the queue.

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