!!> BOOKS ✻ If I Had Your Face ✴ Author Frances Cha – Thantai68.info
A Riveting Debut Novel Set In Contemporary Seoul, Korea, About Four Young Women Making Their Way In A World Defined By Impossibly High Standards Of Beauty, Secret Room Salons Catering To Wealthy Men, Strict Social Hierarchies, And K Pop Fan ManiaEven As A Girl, I Knew The Only Chance I Had Was To Change My Face Even Before A Fortune Teller Told Me So Kyuri Is A Heartbreakingly Beautiful Woman With A Hard Won Job At A Room Salon, An Exclusive Bar Where She Entertains Businessmen While They Drink Though She Prides Herself On Her Cold, Clear Eyed Approach To Life, An Impulsive Mistake With A Client May Come To Threaten Her LivelihoodHer Roomate, Miho, Is A Talented Artist Who Grew Up In An Orphanage But Won A Scholarship To Study Art In New York Returning To Korea After College, She Finds Herself In A Precarious Relationship With The Super Wealthy Heir To One Of Korea S Biggest CompaniesDown The Hall In Their Apartment Building Lives Ara, A Hair Stylist For Whom Two Preoccupations Sustain Her Obsession With A Boy Band Pop Star, And A Best Friend Who Is Saving Up For The Extreme Plastic Surgery That Is CommonplaceAnd Wonna, One Floor Below, Is A Newlywed Trying To Get Pregnant With A Child That She And Her Husband Have No Idea How They Can Afford To Raise And Educate In The Cutthroat EconomyTogether, Their Stories Tell A Gripping Tale That S Seemingly Unfamiliar, Yet Unmistakably Universal In The Way That Their Tentative Friendships May Have To Be Their Saving Grace This is a book set in Seoul which features five young women living in an Officetel in contemporary Seoul Four of them feature as alternating first party point of view characters.Kyuri is a prostitute turned Ten Percent salon girl via sheer determination and copious amounts of plastic surgery Miho an orphan who won an art scholarship to the US where she got involved with a Rich Korean artist Ruby and after Ruby s suicide started dating Ruby s rich Chaebol heir boyfriend while using Ruby as a muse for her latest work Ara s parents work as servants on a large Hanok estate, she became a mute after an attack when she was at school and now works as a hairstylist she is obsessed with the lead singer of a K pop band Wonna is married and desparate for a child although increasingly realising the economic challenge if not impossibility of having and supporting a child given her and her husband s perilous economic situation The fifth character Sujin was a fellow orphan with Miho whose career she has always supported and the middle school friend of Ara with who she now shares a flat her dream is to have surgery to become a top salon girl like Kyuri.The style of the book is unremittingly bleak all four characters could be said to fit the unlikeable female genre of say Eilleen Moshfegh or perhaps pertinently Patti Yumi Cottrell albeit in most cases with an obsession with beauty and appearance rather than its opposite It is I think deliberate that the only character with a balanced and optimistic view on life if perhaps not with an ideal career aspiration is the one not included as a POV character There are a number of aspects by which a book can be analysed for example for literary fiction one can think of use of language, detail of plot, characterisation and topicality contemporary relevance.The language in this book is simple unusually I did not highlight any passages when reading the book for their turn of phrase or clever unusual imagery.Impressively though and burnishing its literary credentials this is not a book heavy on plot in the traditional set up confrontation resolution approach We are dropped into the character s complex lives, with some glimpses into their difficult back stories and the challenges of their existing situation but only via their first party, present day narration and each of the characters faces something of a moment of confrontation crisis however there is little or no resolution in fact all of the characters finish the book in a far ambiguous and open ended situation than they started it.By contrast the novel has a strong emphasis on character all four first party narrators and the fifth linking character, are strongly drawn and memorable, and the switches of point of view are clear even for a book that I read in a single sitting I never found myself double checking which character I was reading which can commonly happen in this form of multiple POV novel I also enjoyed the ways in which the characters secretly judge each other for example Kyuri is horrified by aspects of Ara s art, while Ara dismisses Kyuri as suffering from a victim complex.In terms of topicality contemporary relevance I think the growing Western and worldwide Social media lead interest in K Pop and in its darker side with the recent suicides and K beauty will gain this book a ready audience, and the title I think has been chosen to perhaps over emphasise the extent to which this book is around beauty rather than a wider examination of society However the picture it presents of Korean and particularly Seoul society is unremittingly bleak a literally superficial view of beauty and character, characterised by almost routine use of plastic surgery workplace bullying verbal and physical and sexism a business based culture of evening alcoholism and use of prostitutes infidelity Chaebol based corruption rampant nepotism property speculation snobbery based on class, high school and region discrimination against the unfortunate orphans and disabled generational conflict particularly difficult mother in law daughter in law conflicts increasing suicide rates and so on Perhaps made stark by the lack of any balancing aspects All of this of course fitting the genre from which the book originates My concern here is that while I don t think anyone would think Moshfegh or PYC is presenting a rounded as opposed to a deliberately and provocatively one sided view of American society the relative lack of English language books exploring Korean society may mean that this book is taken as completely representative.Overall I found this a bleak but engrossing read which I read in a single sitting.My thanks to Penguin Books for an ARC via NetGalley. In the original story, the little mermaid endures unspeakable pain to gain her human legs The Sea Witch warns her that her new feet will feel as if she is walking on whetter blades, but she will be able to dance like no human has ever danced before And so she drinks the witch s potion, which slices through her body like a sword Seoul, South Korea Four women try to make ends meet in a society that has raised them with unattainable expectations, corrupted aspirations and images they have to fulfill Ara has fallen in love with a K Pop singer, her obsession adding up to her personal ordeal Miho tries to balance her upbringing and her New York experiences while dealing with her intense feelings for a handsome womanizer Wonna struggles to fulfill the expectation of being a mother Kyuri falls prey to her lust for beauty and money and sacrifices her body and, importantly, her sanity and dignity But what else is there to do in a reality that worships plastic surgery, financial superiority and ridiculous, fake pop icons Frances Cha writes with clarity and honesty and allows hints of satire, albeit acute and a little morbid She comments on a set of rules that has to be obeyed, in a system that comes young female souls away, convincing them that they MUST act as everyone and especially men expect them to Beauty and money are brutally connected to each other, it has always been a reality for most women in all cultures throughout the ages In this novel, we see this bond in its most extreme version You have to make money, to put it simply and clearly You have to make men fall in love with you Therefore, you need the perfect face according to the pop star standards And plastic surgery is the means to an end.With money comes exploitation and the feeling you can manipulate others as others manipulate you Sex becomes a weapon of persuasion and a means for the elite to achieve its goals And when you fall in love, society has already fed you with despair so you become obsessed More and , faster and faster Nothing remains untouched, even motherhood is contaminated If you don t want children, you are an abomination If you can t raise them, you become a walking guilt Cha depicts an immense, impossible indifference and absolute cruelty behind the shiny facade.However, the camaraderie between women is an escape, a haven where minds can be unburdened and hearts can be made lighter through shared feelings, even for a while The voices of the four main characters are distinctive, their thoughts seamlessly communicated to the reader, as we try to understand them and their motives and choices My favourite character was Miho She was the restless spirit, the one whose horizons were broadened through Art but her soft heart was there to threaten her ve said it again and again South Korean Literature is a mystery, a treasure, an enigma to be decoyed with each book If I Had Your Face is no exception It is real and through provoking, an unsettling call to consider our views on social status, idols and a worldwide industry that wants us beautiful, willing and silent It is one of the best novels of the yearThe raindrops keep falling, thickly now So we all stand up to make our way upstairs together, as the sky starts crackling, taking aim at each of us and the drunk men stumbling by Many thanks to Penguin Books UK and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.My reviews can also be found on Frances Cha s fascinating debut set in Seoul, South Korea, is an intimate and heartbreaking portrayal of four different flawed women, their lives and friendships, who live in the same apartment building The novel echoes many similar themes to another Seoul set book I read earlier this year that focused on a close circle of four female friends, the humorous Sarong Party Girls by Cheryl Lu Lien Tan Cha writes of the harsh cultural norms and expectations that women are expected to adhere to, pandering to the fantasies of rich men, the misogyny and sexism, the class system and distinctions, the heavy emphasis on consumerism, and the bleak pressures of the economic environment Women chase the exacting and strict standards of beauty required in the western influenced capitalist Korean society, where your face is your fortune, fueling the rise in extreme and expensive plastic surgery, which has become a feature of everyday life.Kyuri is a gorgeous woman who has undergone numerous cosmetic procedures to compete amidst the fierce rivalries of the highly competitive market to successfully procure a position in entertaining rich businessmen in exclusive bars, or salon rooms Miho grew up in an orphanage and is a gifted artist who managed to secure a scholarship to study in New York, a dark and troubling experience She is now back in Seoul, and has a complicated relationship with her wealthy boyfriend from a corporate background The mute Ara is a hairstylist, caught up in her obsession with a K pop band, and particularly the lead singer, Taein, whom she is hoping to meet The married and traumatised Wonna worries about her family s economic future, how they will survive, and desperate to ensure that her daughter should not have to endure the circumstances and past that has been her lot.Francis Cha s novel is character driven, so if you are looking for a plot driven read, you are going to be doomed to be disappointed If you are looking for the traditional structure of a beginning, a middle and an end where all the threads are tied up, again you will be disappointed This is a glimpse into the lives and friendships of a group of friends with an ending that doesn t give or promise fairy tale happy conclusions Instead, you get a significantly realistic ending where the women will continue to face demanding and challenging lives This is a compelling and insightful read of the complexities and difficulties of Korean women s life experiences, their friendships which can on occasion be competitive, yet ultimately supportive to the needs of their friends It provides a eye opening and informative look at Korean culture and society, whilst underlining the universality of what it is to be a woman in our contemporary world Many thanks to Penguin UK for an ARC. If the purpose of a book is to take you to a place you ve never been, then this one fulfilled that role Seoul, Korea and the young girls trying to make their way in a competitive world where beauty is the sole focus and plastic surgery is the norm This book is just heartbreaking right from the get go It delves into the lives of five young women that live in the same apartment building We hear from four of them, in alternating chapters This book was a real eye opener for me I knew about the consumerism and boy band fetish But I hadn t realized what a strict class system Korea has, despite being a capitalist society And while in some ways modern, in other ways Korean society remains extremely misogynistic This is a character driven book It reminds me of Elizabeth Strout s style of writing The chapters overlap and the characters interact, but the chapters aren t linear or tightly joined together These weren t necessarily women I could relate to and I definitely didn t like some of them But yet, each one touched my heart Their lives are so tough And this isn t a story that gives you happy endings for them This novel is extremely polished and doesn t come across as a debut novel My thanks to netgalley and Random House for an advance copy of this book.