Sunday, September 4, 2016

G755 Book Review of The vegetarian by Han Kang

General Information:

Name of Book: The Vegetarian

ISBN: 978-1-101-90611-8

Publisher: Hogarth Books

Year it was published: 2016 (Original 2007)


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.

Author: Han Kang

About the Author:
(From the back of the book)

Han Kang was born in 1970 in South Korea. In 1993 she made her literary debut as a poet and was first published as a novelist in 1994. A participant of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, Kang has won the Man Booker International Prize, the Yi Sang Literary Award, the Young Artist Award, and the Manhae Literary Prize. She currently works as a professor in the department of Creative Writing at the Seoul Institute of the Arts.

1. The Vegetarian

One Sentence Summary:

In a first person narrative, Yeong-Hye's husband, Mr. Choe, begins detailing how the madness has started; how, from a dream, his wife became a vegetarian and how she took it too far, resulting in dire consequences for everyone.

2. Mongolian Mark

One Sentence Summary

In third person narrative, a few years after the events of Vegetarian, Yeong-Hye's brother in law who happens to be an artist talks about his forbidden obsessions which ultimately lead to breaking of many taboos.

3. Flaming Trees

One Sentence Summary

In the last part of the novella, Yeong-Hye's sister, In-Hye, picks up a year or so after the events of Mongolian Mark and describes her visits to the mental hospital where she watches her sister continue to completely waste away from anorexia.

Personal Opinion:

While reading the stories, my first went to Barbie look-alike from Ukraine who seems to have had similar claims about becoming a plant and living through photosynthesis. While I feel there is a bit of similarity to the Ukranian Barbie look-alike, I don't think this is what the author had in mind. In the first part, The Vegetarian, I actually thought that Yeong-Hye is trying to purge her humanity by refusing to eat meat and by ultimately taking it too far. When I think of it, plants don't have meat and are rooted to the ground, depending on outside sources to take care of their needs, while humans depend on themselves to take care of their physical needs. I also feel as if mental health isn't understood in South Korea because in the first part, I literally cringed at the family's reactions begging for Yeong-Hye to eat meat. In the second part, there is more plant motifs, and, in an odd way, the thought that came into my mind is of the plant coming together and trying to blossom. In the third part, as Yeong-Hye gives up more and more of her humanity, I witness her sister attempting to try to understand her motivations but failing to do so.

I got this from Blogging for Books

4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)


  1. I got the book from Blogging for Books too! I also enjoyed it :)
    It has received lots of mixed reviews, but I liked how eerie and surreal it was. Seeing Yeong-Hye's descent into madness was riveting and terrifying. I think the second part was my was just so unsettling, but that scene with their painted bodies is very memorable.
    I'm looking forward to reading more of Han Kang's work!

  2. :) awesome. What will your next read be? I am already waiting for tea planter's wife. I hope blogging for books will offer human acts for reviews. I loved the first two parts, and yeah the painted bodies with flowers made me think of a flower coming together. (Flowers have both male and female characteristics) I didn't get third part that much sorry to say.

  3. I'll be reading Human Acts next.
    And yeah, the ending of part 3 was rather disappointing. :/

    1. By the way, how did you get a copy of Human Acts?

  4. You have human acts? Am review it and let me know if it's as good as the vegetarian

    1. No, I don't. That's just the one I want to read next. lol I'm not sure when that will happen x)

  5. Lol same here. Am crossing my fingers for a win at library thing or he reading room or goodreads. In case if I get a second copy, I can let you know and see if I can send it over to you :) have you looked at reviews for human acts yet?

  6. I love how you've broken things down here. Especially the BIL perspective. (That' the aspect im most curious about, how his desire affects her life).

  7. Thanks for the compliment MyBookJacket :) I feel that first and second parts of the story are the strongest and are challenging to the mind because it's not a typical read. Brother in law perspective is best described as extremely unsettling and a bit fetishistic in my view. ( He only saw her through a Mongolian mark)


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