This is a debut novel by Frances Cha. It's set in present day Seoul, Korea and centers around four young women who all live in the same apartment building. In the beginning I was fascinated by these four women and their stories, it just fizzled out for me by the end.
That being said, I learned a lot. The four women in the story are Kyuri, who is beautiful and her goal in life is to be beautiful and make her beauty work for her. She works in one of the many room salons around the city and through her we see that part of the culture and lifestyle that exists.
Miho is Kyuri's roommate who studied art in New York and has now returned back to Korea. From Miho we learn about the orphanages that exist because that is how she grew up and she is also in a relationship with a "bazillionaire", so we see the disparity between men who are rich and poor girls brought up in orphanages.
Ara works in a hair salon, very different than the "room salons", and often does hair for the women who work in the room salons. From Ara, really Ara's best friend, we learn about the world of plastic surgery and the standards that exist, that seem extreme for my western mind, but are mainstream in Korea. Ara herself, has a very painful past and a heartbreaking story.
Finally, there is Wonna and her husband who have been trying to have a child and haven't succeeded. Their desire to have a family is also stressful because of financial concerns.
All four stories become intertwined and the book really brings the culture to life. That was my favourite part of the book. Korean culture is not one I know much about. Some of what I learned was shocking and I'm still trying to wrap my head around it. Through these characters Frances Cha gives us a glimpse into Korean cultural norms, the standards women are expected to adhere to, both in appearance and manner, sexism and the hierarchy of class that exists.
Frances Cha is an author, I would definitely read again.
Bookworm Rating: 🐛🐛🐛🐛
Thank you to NetGalley and Penguin Random House Canada for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
I talk about this book in the YouTube video below: