Vampire fiction, but not as you know it — this smart, subversive page-turner explores isolation, hunger, longing to belong, and what it means to be human with biting style.
Funny, unsettling and searingly affecting Claire Kohda’s Woman, Eating is a devour-in-one-sitting kind of novel. A feverish feast of female-centred fiction that explores our fundamental yearning to belong, and our complex relationship with food, hunger and our bodies through a brilliantly-bold, freshly-told twist on vampire tales.
Lydia’s vampiric condition is revealed in wry style when she rents a studio space for artists. For a few pages, her sensitivity to sun and light could be interpreted as a medical affliction, before bam! We learn of Lydia’s struggle to source fresh pigs’ blood, and that her institutionalised, centuries-old mother was responsible for turning her into the part-human, part-demon she now exists as. An existence that’s left her unbearably isolated, feeling “like my body is a puppet”, and with a complex relationship to hunger and food. While she can’t digest the kind of sustenance humans enjoy, Lydia is acutely aware of the way humans “give food a lot of power…If you lose control in your life, you can find control in your food”.
This is the first time Lydia has lived apart from her mother. Her loneliness is excruciating, and exacerbated when she meets new people at the studio and during her gallery internship. Lydia’s longing for physical and emotional closeness is palpable, as is her struggle to contain her impulse to feed herself fresh blood. Alongside this, the novel explores colonialism as vampirism — Lydia is a young British woman born to a Japanese father and a Malaysian mother whose father was “a white British man who had arrived in Malaysia as part of a colonising power. He ate many women, but for some reason had her drink from him so she would become what he was”. Such questions around identity and an intense sense of hunger sear through this uniquely powerful novel.
'Absolutely brilliant - tragic, funny, eccentric . . . Claire Kohda takes the vampire trope and makes it her own' RUTH OZEKI
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.
|Publication date:||24th March 2022|
|Publisher:||Virago Press Ltd an imprint of Little, Brown Book Group|
|Primary Genre||Horror and Supernatural Fiction|
Absolutely brilliant - tragic, funny, eccentric and so perfectly suited to this particularly weird time. Claire Kohda takes the vampire trope and makes it her own in a way that feels fresh and original. Serious issues of race, disability, misogyny, body image, sexual abuse are handled with subtlety, insight, and a lightness of touch. The spell this novel casts is so complete I feel utterly, and happily, bitten - Ruth Ozeki (2021)
Unsettling, sensual, subversive, Woman, Eating turns the vampire trope on its head with its startlingly original female protagonist, caught between two worlds. It is a profound meditation on alienation and appetite, and what it means to be a young woman who experiences life at an acute level of intensity and awareness. Claire Kohda's prose is biting, yet lush and gorgeous. I was uncomfortably smitten - Lisa Harding, author of BRIGHT BURNING THINGS (2022)
Blistering ... Tells us a lot about the ways we're all searching for belonging - Glamour UK
A modern day vampire thriller that also covers race, social isolation, unrequited love and parental loyalty ... Lydia battles not only her vampire hunger but also to find her place in the world - BBC
A vampire book that will scrub any trace of Twilight from your mind - Claire Kohda's debut follows a young vampire dealing with all kinds of hunger: for acceptance, for artistic success, and for sushi - Glamour US, Best Books for 2022
The way food wends its way throughout this piece is such a fascinating way to explore hunger, various appetites, and even identity. I regret to inform you that this one's not out until the spring, but I believe it's well worth the preorder - Book Riot
Kohda makes clever use of her premise to explore weighty topics-including cultural alienation, disordered eating, emotional abuse, sexual assault, the stressors of navigating adulthood, and caring for an aging parent-with sensitivity. Lydia's achingly vulnerable first-person narration gains momentum as she achieves self-acceptance-and, ultimately, self-empowerment. Subversive and gratifying - Kirkus
A delicate, consistently surprising riff on the vampire narrative, and a stealthy, subversive story of one young woman's declaration of self - Library Journal (starred)