Woman, Eating by Claire Kohda
Lydia has a secret at the heart of her identity, which is tough when she hardly knows who she is herself. She’s never met her Japanese father, a now deceased successful artist, and her relationship with her Malaysian mother has turned sour. But she’ll never be free of her: Lydia and her mother are immortal, vampires who exist on a diet of pig’s blood.
Fortunately, you don’t need to be addicted to the vampire genre to enjoy Claire Kohda’s debut novel. It’s a lovely story about loneliness, mothers and daughters, dietary quirks, art as a route to immortality and, of course, family secrets, dealing with difference and discovering self-acceptance. Thanks to publishers Virago for my advance proof copy.
Click the image to learn more about my debut novel which is also about a woman with a secret identity that sets her apart from her friends.
Witches by Brenda Lozano translated by Heather Cleary
The novel is told through the alternating voices of these two women as they delve into their personal and family histories. As both strands are narrated in the first person in a similar but idiosyncratic style – using repetition like poetry and circling time – I had trouble distinguishing them initially, although that might have been partly the author’s intention.
Feliciana has grown up in poverty, working from infancy and marrying at fourteen. By the time she’s twenty – or thereabouts, she doesn’t know her exact age – she is a widow with three young to support. Although she comes from a family of traditional healers, she has to overcome prejudice to take up her profession as the knowledge is generally confined to men.
Zoe, whose mother is clairvoyant, has also experienced adversity: as a young woman, she has to terminate an unwanted pregnancy at a time when abortion is illegal. (Although this is only a small part of her story, I like to flag novels that normalise abortion and a woman’s right to choose.)
While I enjoyed this novel, I’m left with the feeling that I may have missed the point. Or it could be that I’m sceptical about the capacity of mushroom-induced hallucinations to uncover buried truths. Thanks to publishers Quercus for my advance proof copy.
This week’s flash fiction prompt – disappearance – reminded me of several things I’ve mislaid this week, including a memory stick at a book festival (it had slipped into the recycling bin when I rested my papers on top of it) and the sound from a video (I wasn’t wearing my earbuds but had them plugged into my computer). I’m glad I discarded them as the launching point for my 99-word story as I had fun going back to the topic of Woman, Eating.
We called ourselves the five elles at college, but only four of us have made it to the reunion. But an eighty percent survival rate isn’t bad for friends in our seventies, although Lucy’s had cancer and Lisa has an artificial hip. But what happened to Lydia? We’ve looked online and found no trace alive or dead. A star that bright can’t simply disappear. Lainy once saw her double from a taxi window. A granddaughter? She couldn’t stop to ask. Only I recall Lydia’s drunken midnight confession. “I’m cursed with immortality. I might look twenty, but I’m centuries old.”