The Vegetarian

Thoughts tvbyhk by Han Kang, Hogarth 2015 (orig 2007), 188 pages

Translated from the Korean by Deborah Smith

Winner of the Man Booker International Prize 2015

Challenge:  Prize Winners?  Translated Works?
Genre: Asian Lit
Type/Source: Hardback / Gift from Ruthiella – THANKS!
 Why I read this now: A book in hand will get read.

MOTIVATION for READING: Ruthiella was kind enough to send it to me. I ran out of books on the boat (well, I have two, I think, on my Kindle yet?)

WHAT’s it ABOUT: A young woman, Yeong-hye, is assaulted by horrific dreams (and is also married to a cad.) She decides to forego eating meat because of these dreams and this upsets pretty much EVERYONE. Told from three perspectives — the cad of a husband, her sister’s husband and her sister — and not Yeong-hye, though we do see bits of her dreams.

In the words of The Guardian:

“Dark dreams, simmering tensions, chilling violence . . .  This South Korean novel is a feast . . . It is sensual, provocative, and violent, ripe with potent images, startling colors, and disturbing questions. . . Sentence by sentence, The Vegetarian is an extraordinary experience. . . [It] will be hard to beat.”

WHAT’s GOOD: Oh, it is deliciously disturbing. The writing IS lyrical, the images are startling, the mood is darkly apprehensive.

As LINDA says in the blurbs at the beginning of my copy of the book:

“[A] bloodcurdlingly beautiful, sinister book.”

FINAL THOUGHTS: A perfect book for RIP if you don’t get to it before this fall.

RATING: Four slices of pie. No pastries mentioned but I think every fruit available in Korea might make an appearance. Lots of food descriptions.



Copyright © 2007-2016. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

14 thoughts on “The Vegetarian

  1. It is quite true even nowadays I think that when one person opts to be vegetarian, others get upset; I think it somehow seems like implied censure or something. If I hadn’t heard how dark this book was, I would be interested at least because of that aspect!

  2. I don’t find this kind of disturbing “delicious.” And her family is so controlling that their objections to her being vegetarian are just par for the course. There’s nothing in this book that I think it can improve anyone’s life to read about; the way it’s written invites only prurient interest.

  3. I also found the book “deliciously disturbing.” I really loved her brother-in-law’s bizarre art project. I found the book provocative in addressing the role of food in society, as well as how people feel the need to control other people’s bodies and decisions. I can’t believe you almost ran out of book to read on the boat! I hope one day I can get to the bottom of my TBR list and have that problem 🙂

  4. Wow, I can’t even begin to imagine running out of e-books. But, that’s because I used to buy them for $1.99 or 99 cents (or load the free ones) before I realized how much I hate reading electronically. So ridiculous. I don’t know if I’ll ever forgive myself. I’m soooo enjoying reading off my shelves.

    As to the book . . . hmm. Might be too dark for me. But, I agree with Jill about the “implied censure” of eating unlike others (great word choice, Jill). I don’t really like meat, apart from seafood, and there have been times I’ve flatly rejected it. It does not go over well with some people. Having said that, from my experience it also doesn’t go over well to just be a picky eater. I used to avoid all sorts of things — mustard, onions, tomato sauce, every salad dressing you can think of — and it drove people batty. Now, I’m experiencing that from the other side. My probable future daughter-in-law calls herself a vegetarian but since she dislikes a lot of non-meat foods, it’s almost impossible to satisfy her unless you fix some plain cheese item, like cheese pizza or macaroni. So, I get the frustration, now. 🙂

  5. Definitely a disturbing and extremely unsettling book. But I loved it too and it feel weird saying that given all that happens but I still think about and it has been months since I’ve read it.

  6. See, if I were truly a sensible blogger, I’d start planning for RIP now. It always sneaks up on me and then I’m unprepared and don’t participate even though I would like to!

    And yet here I am. Not preparing for RIP. Even though I just told myself I should.

  7. This was such an interesting, disturbing read and I thought it was technically very good, but I’m not sure I actually enjoyed listening to it?? Does that make sense? But you’re right, “startling” is the perfect word to describe it.

  8. Pingback: Pie Charts Tables Stats Words, Part 1 2016 – Care's Books and Pie

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