Title: The Vegetarian
Author: Han Kang
Publication Date: February 2, 2016
Before the nightmare, Yeong-hye and her husband lived an ordinary life. But when splintering, blood-soaked images start haunting her thoughts, Yeong-hye decides to purge her mind and renounce eating meat. In a country where societal mores are strictly obeyed, Yeong-hye’s decision to embrace a more “plant-like” existence is a shocking act of subversion. And as her passive rebellion manifests in ever more extreme and frightening forms, scandal, abuse, and estrangement begin to send Yeong-hye spiraling deep into the spaces of her fantasy. In a complete metamorphosis of both mind and body, her now dangerous endeavor will take Yeong-hye—impossibly, ecstatically, tragically—far from her once-known self altogether.
TRIGGER WARNINGS: Death, Rape, Mental Illness
“I was convinced that there was more going on here than a simple case of vegetarianism.”
Hello there allies, archenemies and, everyone in between! First of all, let’s take a deep breath and just appreciate the minimalist cover. It’s utterly perfect and beautiful!
I’ve read The Vegetarian on a whim without ever reading the whole blurb (this has been quite a good trick for me nowadays!) I’ve been reading a lot outside my comfort zone lately and I never thought that I…kind of…actually loved it??? I also was not aware that this won the International Booker Prize!
Truthfully, I don’t know how to justify my high rating but here goes!
DELIBERATELY PUTS YOU IN EVERY PERSPECTIVE EFFECTIVELY
This book is divided into three parts with different POVs and as the POV changes there’s an escalating rhythm that you can feel. I really felt compelled with each perspective no matter how unfair or shameful their actions were–I understood their beliefs and their decisions so well even if I don’t agree with them.
The story revolves around Yeong-hye but we never really read about her perspective, only the people around her. In this sense, our views of her shift until we get to view her three-dimensionally.
However, this three-part POV for me had blind spots and until the end, we never truly got to know her mind. It leaves quite a bitter aftertaste when I think of it.
EXPOSES A DELICATE AND IMMERSIVE APPROACH ON ART
There’s a huge chunk of the book dedicated to how art touches Yeong-hye and other people. I personally found this the most beautiful yet shameful aspect of the plot progression. It felt like an oxymoron because I was so captivated by it and at the same time repulsed by it. You really just have to read the book to experience it.
ACHINGLY HAUNTING AND DISTURBING
The Vegetarian made me cry surprisingly. The last part was too raw and ugly and I just felt helpless and hopeful at the same time. I know this review might not make a lot of sense but to be fair, my reading experience of this book was equally confusing.
Despite that, I had felt everything immensely with this book. As what Banksy said:
“Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.”
The Vegetarian clearly follows on the same vein. This was a surprising read for me and for such a short book, it packed so many punches leaving me bruised by the end.
I actually love this book but I am sure that I won’t ever read this again.
- Have you read The Vegetarian as well?
- What do you think of it?