Thursday, October 10, 2019

Book Review | The Vegetarian by Han Kang

The Vegetarian is a fiction novel written by Han Kang and translated by Deborah Smith.

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.

The Vegetarian was a strange book. I really enjoyed it, but I'm not sure I would recommend it.

The Vegetarian is a Korean literary fiction/somewhat horror novel by Han Kang. It was translated into English by Deborah Smith. I think the translation was fantastic. There are plenty of critics who disagree with me on the translation, but it won Han Kang and Deborah Smith the Man Booker Prize so I'm not alone in my feelings toward the translation.

The Vegetarian is divided into three distinct parts. Each part has a different POV which is always a tough shift for me. The first part (The Vegetarian) is the strongest of the three so a lot of readers have come away from the book as a whole disappointed.

For me, the theme of The Vegetarian is mental illness and how it is handled by those around the main characters.

As I said, I'm not sure I would specifically recommend this to anyone, but I found the writing to be very compelling. I'm glad I read it despite it's oddities.


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  1. This has been on my list and I do want to read it someday. I've heard all kinds of reactions to it, which only makes me want to read it more!

  2. I've had this one on my list for awhile, too, but I've been on the fence about it. Does it at least read fast?

  3. I've never considered picking this one up but I'm really glad it worked for you. I've read a few books I enjoyed but still couldn't recommend to anyone. It's rather an odd feeling at times.

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