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 social mores are strictly obeyed, Yeong-hye’s decision to embrace a more “plant-like” existence is a shocking act of subversion. And Asher passive rebellion manifests in ever more extreme and frightening forms, scandal, abuse, and estrangement begin to send 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.
The story being set in an existing place generally means the reader can expect the development to be well done. This wasn’t entirely the case and I had trouble truly understanding where the characters were coming from because I didn’t have as much of a world to base it in as I might have anticipated.
As the synopsis says, this book was definitely disturbing. The storyline heads in a few different directions because of the point-of-view alternation. I didn’t really feel like any of the characters received real closure at the end of the story. The point-of-view characters are so different and process the situations so differently yet, even though I’ve read from within their mind, I’m not sure I truly understand or identify with any of them.
Overall, I rate this book 3 out of 5 bookworms.
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 in the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa, Han has won the Man Booker International Prize, the Yi Sang Literary Prize, the Today’s Young Artist Award, and the Manhae Prize for Literature. She currently works as a professor in the department of creative writing at the Seoul Institute of the Arts.
For more information about Han Kang and her work, visit her website.
I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for this honest review.