Black Vodka by Debora Levy is intoxicating. 10 short stories, linked in one way or another to love. Each carries the potential of taking my breath away as I turned page after page. Some gave me goosebumps while others entranced me.

First published as a collection in 2013 by And Other Stories, these tales offer an intimate insight into the lives and minds of the fictional characters, wrapping me rapidly and intensely in their hopes, fears, dreams and nightmares.

This is the second time I’ve read Black Vodka and I’m astonished by how each of the 10 stories has touched me, again. As each tale draws to an end – be it on a climatic high, poignant note or enigmatic tone – I wish that I could follow the characters further.

The title story, which is the first in the collection, is stellar. Levy brings the reader into the mind of a successful advertising executive who happens to be a hunchback. As he stumbles his way through a date, in a slight haze after too much vodka, he exclaims:

There is so much to record and classify, it’s hard to know how to find a language for it. So I am going to start exactly where I am now. Life is beautiful! Vodka is black! Pears are naked! Rain is horizontal! Moths are ghosts. Only some of this is true, but you should know that this does not scare me as much as the promise of love.

Levy creates magic and vulnerability with her words. I had previously reviewed Levy’s Swimming Home, also published by And Other Stories, which I enjoyed very much.

Black Vodka delivers 10 fleeting, yet penetrating glimpses into the lives of its varied cast. I’d recommend Black Vodka in a heartbeat.

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