The Vegetarian by Han Kang


I’ve had my eye on this one for a while, having originally thought it was some sort of cookbook or real life story that I might relate with as a non-meat-eater. Instead it was a beautifully written comment on South Korean social mores, the agency of women and mental illness.

The book was spilt into three parts, each from the point of view of a different character but revolving around Yeong-Hye after she decides to become vegetarian. Her husband, brother-in-law and sister all give an insight into her declining state of mind after she is haunted by gruesome dreams and becomes more and more convinced that she must become a tree. 

The format was a bit weird for me. Not I enjoyable… But somehow incomplete. I felt like the story didn’t finish, like there was another part that should be to come, but at the same time the narrative of the major character was undoubtably at an end. It was a strange sensation, like I was never going to be able to piece together the ending but could only assume the worst.

It was interesting reading this from a western perspective; the men in Yeong-Hye’s life treat her cruelly and abandon women when their pride takes over, yet it feels as though their social standing is still paramount. Yeong-Hye’s decision to become vegetarian is met with violent protest- which is a massive contrast to my experience of becoming one aged thirteen.

My aim this year was to read books by authors from a wider range of of cultures and backgrounds and I’m really glad I finally picked up The Vegatarian

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