Lydia is hungry. She's always wanted to try Japanese food. Sashimi, ramen, onigiri with sour plum stuffed inside - the food her Japanese father liked to eat. But, Lydia can't eat any of these things. Her body doesn't work like those of other people. 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. As Lydia develops as a woman and an artist, she will learn that 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 - if she is to find a way to exist in the world. Before any of this, however, she must eat.
Claire Kohda’s mischievous debut novel pumps fresh blood into the vampire genre by taking us into the pitfalls of Lydia’s less than ordinary life ... Woman, Eating reconfigures the uncanny — its real chills derive not from Lydia’s bloodthirsty cravings but from the creepy male humans she encounters ... So much has been written on female appetites that the book could easily have felt derivative, but Kohda flips the narrative (woman wants to eat but can’t). I would, however, have liked more family backstory, and the ending feels a bit too easy ... Nonetheless, the book playfully revitalises a tired tradition, riffing on its clichés while delivering a gripping contemporary fable about embracing difference and satisfying hunger.
There is an obvious eating disorder analogy at work in Woman, Eating...yet Claire Kodha’s debut is fascinated not just by the psychology but by the systemic construction of want and shame ... Through sensual, frank prose, Kodha locates gendered and generational memories in blood and skin and digestion, rendering the alienation of otherness a distinctly embodied experience ... Woman, Eating is a long-overdue recalibration of the genre: a brilliant, subversive inquiry into the very politics of desire and denial, and a twisted testament to the depths of female appetite.
[Bram] Stoker...brought the monster squarely into the everyday present: in his case, a modern place of independent women and new gadgetry ... What Stoker did for the vampire at the end of the nineteenth century, Claire Kohda does for it in our own era ... For much of the novel, Kohda stresses the human part of Lydia’s story ... Only hints of the supernatural are given at first ... Horror fans may find themselves thirsting for more of this vampiric side and less of Lydia’s mortal half, while a final flurry of frantic retribution doesn’t quite compensate for the rather languid pace and lack of incident. But there is much here to mesmerize and beguile readers, not least in Kohda’s prose, which is patient, strange and altogether persuasive.