The Vegetarian by Han Kang: Book Review

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Synopsis: 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.

A disturbing, yet beautifully composed narrative told in three parts, The Vegetarian is an allegorical novel about modern day South Korea, but also a story of obsession, choice, and our faltering attempts to understand others, from one imprisoned body to another.

Publisher: Hogarth

Date Published: February 2nd 2016

Date Read: July 2016

Number of Pages: 192

Source: Won from a YouTube giveaway.

 

REVIEW

This book will lure you into this pit of calmness and plunge you into this unsettling abyss that will stay in your head for days, yes days. It is a book you won’t easily forget. It will inhabit your mind like a guest who has overstayed their welcome. 

It will leave you with inexplicable feeling that you just couldn’t
easily shake off. It is true what they say, after you read it, there
will be times that it will linger in your head like some mistake in
the past you probably regret doing or some cringe-worthy conversation you had.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not painting it in a bad light. What I’m
saying is this book is disturbing and weird but in the good kind. I can’t
put a proper name to what I exactly felt after reading it but it is
somehow proportionate to feeling of having your brains wrap around
something you can barely fathom. It was like there was this
otherwordly element to it that you just could not easily forget.

This book gave off the Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami vibe to it.
So for fans of Haruki Murakami, I think you will enjoy the works of
Han Kang. There was this certain uniqueness and a hint of something
scandalous that made it all jive into this perfect masterpiece. The
contrast of pensive sadness and the unspeakable abomination masked by
subtleties is what makes this book a cut above the rest. It is
definitely a different reading experience. It is odd as it is
interesting. There was this sense of unease yet there was also a feeling of odd satisfaction, there was no way around it, it was what it was. Shocking to the conscience and somewhat understandable at the same time. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The book was divided into three parts, with different point of views. Each part was distinct from each other yet they all mixed together perfectly to tell a brilliant story. I loved how the author made flawed characters, how they go about with their lives and how their flaws contributed to the whole story. How they invite you unto their minds and made you see it through their perspective, how they invite you and you stayed longer than you have expected. This book will lure you into this pit of calmness and plunge you into this unsettling abyss that will stay in your head for days, yes days. It is a book you won’t easily forget. It will inhabit your mind like a guest who has overstayed their welcome.

There is something about stories about twisted or unconventional marriages that appeal to me so much, and The Vegetarian took the cake. It took twisted and unconventional into a higher level, one I could not fully wrap my head around. There was this feeling that I wanted to read so much more and then a part of me felt satisfied how it ended. It was a mixed emotion at best. I may not have given it full five stars, but I definitely enjoyed it, and added Han Kang to my favorite authors, she writes so beautifully. You will not miss her play on words, how they seemed so simple yet brings so much impact. I know this book isn’t for everyone, some would love it some will hate it, but it is in the beauty of how one would perceive it, how much one could take and be able to grasp the message it was trying to send. This book took another angle on mental illness and painted it in the best light possible, odd but very relevant.

This is the first book that I have read that was translated to english from the original korean, and it did not disappoint. This made me feel that I am missing out on a lot of things and from now on I vow myself to read more of it.

Rating: rating_4stars

“Her life was no more than a ghostly pageant of exhausted endurance, no more real than a television drama. Death, who now stood by her side, was as familiar to her as a family member, missing for a long time but now returned.”
― Han KangThe Vegetarian

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4 thoughts on “The Vegetarian by Han Kang: Book Review

  1. Pingback: READWORTHY BOOKS WHILE WANDERING (Recommended by nerdytalksbookblog) | the island maven

  2. Pingback: Nerdy Talks’ Top 16 Books of 2016 | Nerdy Talks

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