Book Review: The Vegetarian

Book Review: The VegetarianThe Vegetarian
by Han Kang, Deborah Smith
on February 2nd 2016
Pages: 192
Published by Hogarth
Genres: Literary Fiction, Multicultural

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.

My Takeaway 

“If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian.” Paul McCartney

I have never read anything quite like The Vegetarian. The novel is about a South Korean woman (Yeong-hye) and the bizarre events that place after she decides to become a vegetarian. Yeong-hye becomes a vegetarian unexpectedly due to a perturbing dream she has and her life is never the same. The novel is divided into three sections. The first is narrated by Yeong-hye’s husband, the second by her brother-in-law and the third by her sister. You might not know this, but in the Korean culture, family is the most important thing. Korean families lead a life where the father is the head of the family and makes all the decisions. Yeong-hye’s choice goes against the wishes of her husband, father and family, which causes major tension, anger and shocking consequences. I enjoyed the novel because it was different, but be aware it’s filled with dark and sad portions. Kang is definitely a unique and imaginative writer. The Vegetarian was awarded the 2016 Man Booker International Prize, which is an international literary award hosted in the United Kingdom. The novel is also a quick read with only 208 pages.

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