WOMAN, EATING CLAIRE KOHDA ****
Lydia is hungry. She's always wanted to try sashimi, ramen, onigiri with sour plum stuffed inside - the food her Japanese father liked to eat. And then there is bubble tea and the vegetables grown by the other young artists at the London studio space she is secretly squatting in. But Lydia can't eat any of this. The only thing she can digest is blood, and it turns out that sourcing fresh pigs' blood in London - where she is living away from her vampire mother for the first time - is much more difficult than she'd anticipated.
Then there are the humans: the people at the gallery she interns at, the strange men who follow her after dark, and Ben, a goofy-grinned artist she is developing feelings for. Lydia knows that they are her natural prey, but she can't bring herself to feed on them.
If Lydia is to find a way to exist in the world, she must reconcile the conflicts within her - between her demon and human sides, her mixed ethnic heritage, and her relationship with food, and, in turn, humans. Before any of this, however, she must eat.
There used to be a time when fiction shelves were full of Vampire stories. With Twilight and its sparkly-skinned romance angle being the peak, we’ve seen a lot of attempts to re-invent the classic Dracula story to meet modern day society. This has usually led to me rolling my eyes whenever vampire stories are mentioned, however Woman, Eating is a really refreshing take on a saturated genre.
The novella focuses on Lydia, who is half-human, half-vampire as she tries to navigate life without her mother’s guidance. I liked the way that the vampire-ism worked, an aching hunger with the blood she drinks transferring some of the characteristics and emotions of the thing she has eaten. I also liked Lydia’s obsession with ‘eat with me’ style YouTube videos, looking at people eating food she could never eat or enjoy herself. I also liked the inclusion of the slimy boss at the gallery and the exploitation of the ‘interns’ that worked there which really helped to make the book stand out in the here and now.
I do wish there was a little more ‘meat’ to the book though, if you’ll excuse the pun. I would have loved to have found out more about other vampires, for example, or more about the history of how her mother was turned. A lot of the book is focussed on a love story between her and a boy who has a partner and doesn’t seem to be very interesting which was a shame. Lydia spends a lot of time almost dying from hunger and I found her lack of self-preservation to be a little unrealistic. I would have loved the book to be a bit longer (it’s sitting on about 250 pages at the moment), and have more backstory, some grittier content and maybe a more defined plot. This feels very much like a first draft in its current state.
Overall, Woman, Eating is a great first draft at a story – but I’d love it to be worked on more to create something really special. Thank you to NetGalley & Little Brown Book UK – Virago for the chance to read the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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