“Everything eventually succumbs to erosion, including the soul. Everything ruptures; possibilities, like aging bodies, wither.” 
There were so many surprising elements of this book; going in, I thought it was going to be a Killing Eve style thriller with assassins and kick-ass women. But what I got out of it instead was a quietly profound book exploring the intricacies of loneliness and what’s it’s like to be a woman in an industry dominated by men.
I think you can really split the book into two parts – the part where Hornclaw’s career is in jeopardy and the part where she reflects on the choices she’s made (and those that were made for her) throughout her life. The book really reached a depth I was not expecting and I really loved it for that!

8.4Unique, Compelling, Surprising
Hornclaw is a contract killer whose lived a life full of violence and secrets and is considering giving it up for a quieter end to her life. She lives with her dog Deadweight and is content in the isolation she has made for herself. Then one day her career hangs in the balance when she makes an uncharacteristic mistake and a young, male assassin threatens to sabotage her. But if nothing else, she knows how to fight, and she won’t go down without one…
Title: The Old Woman with the Knife
Author: Gu Byeong-Mo
Type: Fiction
Published: 2020
Pages: 281
TW: Violence, Loneliness, Murder, Misogyny, Sexual Assault

As a protagonist, Hornclaw felt very matter-of-fact and expected a lot not just from those around her, but from herself as well. It was a lot more introspective than I anticipated, and while I was partially disappointed with the lack of action sequences, in hindsight, the profound character exploration left me more than satisfied.

Review overview



The Old Woman with the Knife definitely wasn’t the novel I expected it to be, but it surprised me in the best way. A nuanced narrative with so much to say about the human experience as well as the plethora of avenues exploring everything from the complexities of loneliness to the misogyny still apparent in the workplace (even if you work for an assassin’s agency!) I’d highly recommend giving this book a read!

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