Deborah Levy - The Unloved (4 stars)

Deborah Levy - The Unloved

Levy's pivotal and subversive murder mystery is re-issued for a new generation


First published in 1994 and recently re-issued for a new generation of readers, The Unloved remains a pivotal novel in Deborah Levy’s career. The strange brilliance of her imagination permeates the narrative, maintaining the emotional experimentation of her earlier works with an almost sadistic portrayal of love, insatiable rage and desire.

Opening in a French chateau, the novel subverts the English stately home murder mystery after a game of Murder in the Dark leads to the purposeful death of an English woman. Holidaying in the house is a group of European tourists who each provide sexual versatility, significant glimpses into dark and torturous pasts, and deep intensity, often teetering into the fringes of violence. Tatiana, ‘the unloved child’ of wealthy German, Wilhelm and his trophy wife, Luciana, is an apparent witness to the murder that leads the story, but she is also an unnerving observer and mimic of the hedonism, sadism and loneliness which engulfs those around her. Levy’s preoccupation with fantasy, violence and sex permeate through all strands of the novel as she successfully portrays the gulf between the loved and the unloved, and the damage that is wrought in its absence.

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