This "living autobiography" critiques of the roles that society assigns to us and the politics of breaking with the usual gendered rituals, considering the subtle erasure of women's names, spaces, and stories in the modern everyday.
An astute observer of both the mundane and the inexplicable, Levy sketches memorable details in just a few strokes...What makes this book stand out, however, is that Levy doesn’t allow herself to linger over these details. There’s no stretching every moment to an unnecessarily prolonged beat ... She’s like an expert rafter, and the river she travels is full of encounters and emotions. While another writer might give us a lengthy tour of this turbulent water, Levy doesn’t slow down. There’s joy in her maneuvering through the rapids, difficult though they may be. And there’s joy for us in watching her.
What is wonderful about this short, sensual, embattled memoir is that it is not only about the painful landmarks in her life—the end of a marriage, the death of a mother—it is about what it is to be alive ... After her marriage breaks down—at a time when her career is ascending—Levy and her two young daughters move into a north London block of flats which she describes, in its stricken deficiency, with panache. She makes of the flat a story, with its big skies and its sterile corridor ... She describes the bees that are her unexpected flatmates, her prospering strawberry plants, and the exotic oranges with cardamom that she and her daughters eat for breakfast. She writes entertainingly about her attempt, encouraged by a friend, at 'living with color'—her yellow bedroom a garishly false move ... This is a little book about a big subject. It is about how to 'find a new way of living.'
...so many minor moments of quotidian grace and wit...filter through The Cost of Living...that it is always a pleasure to consume ... [Levy] isn’t collecting her thoughts here so much as she is purposefully discollecting them. Calm and order, she suggests, are vastly overrated.