Book Review: The Vegetarian by Han Kang
Before the nightmares began, Yeong-hye and her husband lived an ordinary, controlled life. But the dreams—invasive images of blood and brutality—torture her, driving Yeong-hye to purge her mind and renounce eating meat altogether. It’s a small act of independence, but it interrupts her marriage and sets into motion an increasingly grotesque chain of events at home. As her husband, her brother-in-law and sister each fight to reassert their control, Yeong-hye obsessively defends the choice that’s become sacred to her. Soon their attempts turn desperate, subjecting first her mind, and then her body, to ever more intrusive and perverse violations, sending Yeong-hye spiraling into a dangerous, bizarre estrangement, not only from those closest to her, but also from herself.
You can purchase The Vegetarian by Han Kang on Amazon (Kindle, Paperback, Audible):
*possible spoilers ahead*
What I like about the book:
- Han Kang is a storyteller, no arguments there.
- The book’s plot brings into mind some of Sion Sono’s work. His films and the book carry the same elements and tone. Don’t worry, I’ll spare you of my amateur movie connoisseur talk but if you’ve already watched Tag or Love Exposure, this book will bring the same levels of elation and confusion (also, watch his movies!).
- I think it’s brilliant that the last chapter was told in In-hye’s (the older sister) point of view. She made all the essential leaps – past, present, future, which allowed the readers to make the connections themselves. She is also my favorite character though, to be honest, none of them is the loveable type. Eerie dreams, an eccentric sister, and a family caught in a sexual-scandal aside, her struggles with self-identity and purpose are very much similar to our own. This excerpt from one of her epiphanies really hits home:
“The feeling that she had never really lived in this world caught her by surprise. It was a fact. She had never lived. Even as a child, as far back as she could remember, she had done nothing but endure. She had believed in her own inherent goodness, her humanity, and lived accordingly, never causing anyone harm. Her devotion to doing things the right way had been unflagging, all her successes had depended on it, and she would have gone on like that indefinitely. She didn’t understand why, but faced with those decaying buildings and straggling grasses, she was nothing but a child who had never lived.”
What I don’t like about the book:
- The ending! We deserve more.
- I still don’t understand some parts of the plot. Should I stop trying to understand everything and just leave it as it is?
“Time was a wave, almost cruel in its relentlessness as it whisked her life downstream, a life she had to constantly strain to keep from breaking apart.”
“She’d been unable to forgive her for soaring alone over a boundary she herself could never bring herself to cross, unable to forgive that magnificent irresponsibility that had enabled Yeong-hye to shuck off social constraints and leave her behind, still a prisoner. And before Yeong-hye had broken those bars, she’d never even known they were there.”
“She watches the streaks of rain lashing the window, with the untouched steadiness unique to those accustomed to solitude.”
Other books by Han Kang
Categories: TWL - Books