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Frances Cha Books In Order

Publication Order of Standalone Novels

If I Had Your Face (2020)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Frances Cha
Frances Cha is a contemporary fiction author best known for her debut novel If I Had Your Face. The talented author previously worked as a travel and culture editor with CNN and a lecturer in various universities in the US. Cha has also written for multiple publications, including The Believer, The Atlantic, and Yonhap News. The author currently lives in Brooklyn.

If I Had Your Face
If I Had Your Face tells the story of four women living in the same building and trying to make a living in a society with corrupted aspirations, unattainable expectations, and images that are hard to fulfill. Through these four women, we get to see the harsh cultural norms and expectations set for women. The story is set in contemporary Seoul, Korea, where strict social hierarchies exist, and women are expected to maintain high beauty standards to attract the high and mighty. Rich men get away with a lot, and some young women are forced to forget their morals in order to survive in a very harsh world.
Kyuri is heartbreakingly beautiful and works at a room salon as a prostitute serving clients at the exclusive bar. Her customers include renowned business people who come to the bar for a drink and some entertainment. Kyuri has a clear-eyed approach towards life, and she is proud to have figured her life out. However, an impulsive mistake threatens to thwart all her plans and destroy her hard-won job and livelihood. All the surgeries she has undergone to match society’s definition of beauty could mean nothing just because of one silly mistake.

Miho is Kyuri’s roommate and a talented artist. While she was raised in an orphanage, Miho manages to win a scholarship and goes abroad to study in New York. Once she is done with college, Miho moves back to Korea and gets into a relationship with a wealthy boy trained in capitalism. It is clear that Miho is struggling to balance her New York experiences and her upbringing, and her complicated relationship doesn’t help her situation much.
Ara lives down the hall from Kyuri and Miho’s apartment. The young woman works as a hairstylist, and she dedicates all her energy to her job. Ara’s other obsessions include a pop star in a boy band and a best friend looking to undergo extensive plastic surgery. Even though Ara is mute, she doesn’t shy away from communicating her feelings to the people she considers family.

Lastly, there is Wonna, who lives one flow below Miho, Kyuri, and Ara. Wonna is a newlywed, and she has recently discovered that she is pregnant. While this could be good news for most people, Wonna is worried that she and her husband will not be able to afford to raise and educating their child in the current economy. Wonna would hate it if her daughter was to undergo the same hardships, she struggled with growing up.
In a capitalist Korea society, it is said that your face is your fortunate. Any woman who passes as beautiful can lead a comfortable life by earning from rich men keen to fulfill their sexual fantasies. This doesn’t sound like the perfect job, but the sad thing is that it is a reality for many. What do women who cannot afford plastic surgeries do to survive and earn a decent living?

Through these four women, the author tells the universal story of women struggles the world over. All of them have dreams and expectations, and it doesn’t help that society also expected them to behave a certain way. What options do these women have than worshipping financial superiority, plastic surgery, and pop icons that seem way beyond their reach? The author puts her points with honesty and clarity while throwing in some satire. She is keen to note that society pushes young women to act the way men want and obey a specific set of rules. Through the characters, the author also shows how beauty and money are connected. The author also shows how money is used to exploit and manipulate others. In a highly materialistic society, sex is a means used by the elite to achieve what they want.

Just like in other parts of the world, not wanting children in Korea is considered an abomination even if the parents have no means to give their child a comfortable life. The same society turns on you when you are unable to raise your children. Despite the numerous challenges, friendship provides a haven where women can share and even laugh about their experiences. It is hard not to fall in love with these characters as they allow you into their lives, their fears, and their achievements to date. Miho is such a restless spirit, and it is incredible how art had broadened her horizons while at the same time softening her heart.

This is a character-driven story that doesn’t come with any promise of a fairy tale ending. Instead, the novel offers a glimpse into the life of women in modern Korea and their challenging lives. Everything from the characters to the end is realistic, which makes this read like a true story. The theme of friendship is well discussed here, and it is sweet that these women care about each other even when occasional competitiveness threatens to destroy their bond.

If I Had Your Face is a heartbreaking yet intimate portrayal of four women, all flawed, and the choices they make in life. It is the story of misogyny and sexism, economic pressure, and the class system. The book shows the few options available for women who want to improve their lives. For women who feel that their faces are not enough, expensive plastic surgery is the only way out which explains the rise of these operations in Korean society. In modern society, women are pressured every day to look a certain way. Even in the professional world, women have to work hard to improve their looks to match society’s demands. If you are looking for a thought-provoking read with all women characters, this book is ideal.

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