Woman, Eating

Claire Kohda

Woman, Eating
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Woman, Eating

Claire Kohda

‘Absolutely brilliant - tragic, funny, eccentric … Claire Kohda takes the vampire trope and makes it her own’ Ruth Ozeki, Booker-shortlisted author of A Tale for the Time Being

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.


Described succinctly as ‘the millenial take on the vampire novel’, Claire Kohda’s debut novel Woman, Eating is both exactly that and so much more. Written in the first person, this is the story of Lydia: a young woman who is leaving home for the first time to take up an unpaid internship at a prestigious gallery in London. Lydia is an artist, a frustrated foodie, a single child – and, yes, a vampire. Born human, and turned by her mother when she was just a few days old, Lydia is caught in stasis between two existences – no longer a girl but not yet a woman; no longer human but not quite a vampire; both predator and prey to the men who watch her from the shadows; and trapped in a stifling relationship with her self-loathing mother, but orphaned by her mother’s dementia. Taking her first tentative steps into adulthood and independence, Lydia is determined to forge a bright future for herself … but before she can find her place in the world she’ll have to decide who she really is.

Confronting issues including race, colonisation, disability, social isolation, and sexual assault with a deft touch, Woman, Eating merges the fantastical with the mundane in a way that is both compelling and eminently readable. The character of Lydia shines from the page, her warm and witty narrative voice so genuine that I felt like I knew her. There were moments that surprised me into laughter, into grief, into rage, and into pained second-hand embarrassment. Woman, Eating is an accomplished debut, a meditation on art, food, hunger, and what it’s like to exist in a world where you don’t feel like you belong. Highly recommended.

Lian Hingee is the digital marketing manager at Readings.

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