Book Review: The Vegetarian by Han Kang


Title: The Vegetarian
Author: Han Kang
Translator: Deborah Smith
ISBN: 9781101906118
Publisher: Hogarth


Winner of the 2016 Man Booker International Prize

A beautiful, unsettling novel about rebellion and taboo, violence and eroticism, and the twisting metamorphosis of a soul
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.

Celebrated by critics around the world, The Vegetarian is a darkly allegorical, Kafka-esque tale of power, obsession, and one woman’s struggle to break free from the violence both without and within her.


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.

My Review:

The book was told in three parts by three different perspectives, Mr. Cheong (husband), the brother-in-law and In-Hye (sister), but they were all talking about the main character, Yeong-Hye .  Even though the whole book was mainly about Yeong-Hye, it felt like three connected short stories to me. One part of book was a little weird, or should I say too “artistic”.

I really liked the first part of the book.  I was raised in Asian families (yes more than one), so I understand the culture very well.   The author did a great job describing it.  The ways marriages and families are described are quite common in the old Asian culture or maybe still true in some small regions now a day.

When I first started reading the second part of the book,  I thought it was a different story.  The narrative was not Mr. Cheong or Yeong-Hye; even the writing style was different.  It took me a while to understand what was going on.

Overall, I enjoyed reading this book.  It was a short read, only 188 pages.  The book covered many topics thoroughly; it felt even shorter.   Topics were ranging from marriage, family, turning vegetarian, sexual desire, mental illness, sisterhood etc. I highly recommend this book to a book club.  There are so many discussion points.

4.5 out of 5 stars
Received a free copy from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.


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