Review: WOMAN, EATING by Claire Kohda (2022)

Genre: Adult Horror
Year Release: 2022
Source: Barnes & Noble

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warning: Sexual harassment (physical and verbal), sexual assault, gore, animal violence, hospice care

Lydia is a vampire and, for the first time in her adult life, she’s on her own. She’s dropped off her mother at a long term care center. She’s taken up residence in a studio, around humans and artists. This book explores Lydia navigating on her own at the crossroads of human and animal, looking back on what being human has meant all her life versus the experience she’s living now.

Incredibly introspective and melancholy in the way it approaches vampirism as a means to explore loneliness, human connection, and finding one’s place in the world.

The horror is very subdued in this book. It’s not so much scary as it is unmooring. Lyd is very adrift as far as her place among the living goes. I can’t speak to the mixed race rep, but it is very much a factor with regards to her navigating London as is her vampirism and being a woman. All her interactions and attitudes are very interstitial. The uncertainty lends itself well to the languid writing and introspective mood of this work.

Lyd meets a variety of people, from Ben the artist upstairs, Anju, his fiancée, Gideon at the art gallery, but one relationship haunts her like a specter, despite not being dead yet. The way Kohda handles rifts between parent and child really moved me. As Lyd experiences more of life, she realizes that the way around being a vampire that she grew up with might not be the only one. It’s a realization that slowly spreads like a spill from a tiny wound. It gets as under your skin as the Lydia’s overall discomfort at being alive. Her mother tried her best in the traditional sense, but with very mixed results. During scenes when the differences between their attitudes come more to light, I had to put the book down for a bit and come back to it after a breather. It’s uncomfortably close and masterfully done.

The food descriptions in this book are enticing, but in a way that focuses on more of the aesthetics and emotions around eating more so than the enjoyment of food as a meal and nourishment. It works really well to highlight just how removed Lydia is both from herself and those around her. Social media plays a bit of a role in this aspect, but it’s more a vehicle for further contemplation.

I also appreciated that Lydia exists at the same time as Buffy. It’s a relevant pop culture reference that not only serves as characterization but also reinforces the book’s themes.

Kohda does a lot in relatively few pages, and this is for sure one I will be coming back to later.

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