Release Date: July 23rd 2020
Publisher: Viking Books
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 4.25/5 stars
A glitteringly dark and unsettling debut novel about four young women struggling to survive in South Korea
If I Had Your Face plunges us into the mesmerizing world of contemporary Seoul – a place where extreme plastic surgery is as routine as getting a haircut, where women compete for spots in secret ‘room salons’ to entertain wealthy businessmen after hours, where K-Pop stars are the object of all-consuming obsession, and ruthless social hierarchies dictate your every move.
Navigating this hyper-competitive city are four young women balancing on the razor-edge of survival: Kyuri, an exquisitely beautiful woman whose hard-won status at an exclusive ‘room salon’ is threatened by an impulsive mistake with a client; her flatmate Miho, an orphan who wins a scholarship to a prestigious art school in New York, where her life becomes tragically enmeshed with the super-wealthy offspring of the Korean elite; Wonna, their neighbour, pregnant with a child that she and her husband have no idea how they will afford to raise in a fiercely competitive economy; and Ara, a hair stylist living down the hall, whose infatuation with a fresh-faced K-Pop star drives her to violent extremes.
If I Had Your Face is the dark and gripping tale of four women living in contemporary Seoul. In this society looking beautiful is the most important thing, and plastic surgery is commonplace. K-Pop stars are more than just celebrities, they are an obsession. Social hierarchies rule all and these four women must do everything they can to survive in this ruthless society.
This book was so easy to get lost in. I got completely wrapped up in these four characters and their lives. It’s quite a slow burn story, following each character in their day to day lives as they work and live in Seoul. It’s a gripping tale and I found all four women fascinating and relatable. It touches on a whole range of topics from plastic surgery, sexism, obsessions with celebrities and class. Each topic is deftly handled by Cha and I quickly became completely addicted to this book. Although it is quite a short a book it packs a punch and I found myself thinking about this book even when I’d put it down.
I found myself wanting to know more and more about these women. I was fascinated by Ara – a hairdresser who is non-verbal and Kyuri – a room salon girl in debt for plastic surgery. We are treated to each of the four characters points of view, giving the reader the chance to learn more about their history and life. It’s a compelling tale and one I think lots of people will love. Cha has a easy writing style that I really enjoyed and she creates incredibly life like characters. If I Had Your Face is a book that completely transports you to the setting, and I thoroughly enjoyed every second of it. I highly recommend this one and I can’t wait to see what Frances Cha writes next.