Book Review: The Vegetarian

Aug 20, 201846 comments

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Gayathri loves reading, recommending books and talking about bookish things in real life. Her blog is just an extension of that habit. When she is not reading books or creating online content, she freelances as a beta reader. She lives currently in Dubai.Head over to meet me

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I read The Vegetarian a while ago as a part of the A-Z challenge 2018 and yet I couldn’t post a review as soon as I would usually. I can blame my erratic blogging schedule but the truth is The Vegetarian by Han Kang left me so confused and perplexed that I had to step back and mull over what to say. 

Watch out for my 100th review!

Yet I can’t think of a better fitting book that I have read in the recent times than The Vegetarian to be my 100th review on my blog. Yes, you heard it right. This would be my ONE HUNDREDTH review on this blog. 

About the book

Book Name: The Vegetarian

Author: Han Kang

Genre: Fiction – Modern Classic, Literary,

Characters: Yeong-Hye, Mr. Cheong, Kim In-Hye

Setting: Seoul, South Korea

Plot

The Vegetarian talks of how cultural and societal norms make or break a person’s individuality and define one’s perspective. The Vegetarian consists of three parts Yeong-Hye’s past, present and future, from the perspectives of her husband, her brother in law and her sister Kim In-Hye. 

In a country where meat is a staple food, Yeong-Hye stops eating meat, a reaction to the bloody nightmares that she had been facing every night. Until then a passive and unassuming wife, Yeong’s decision is criticized by everyone in the family including her father who even tries to force feed her some meat. 

My initial thoughts

The more I read, the more intriguing (bizarre, even?) the book became. And given that it is such a short book, I finished it fairly fast, even when I had to re-read some parts to make sure ‘that’ really happened. Let us get on with the review, shall we?

The Vegetarian is the winner of the Man Booker Prize in 2016 among many other awards. If this had gone by my usual luck with award books, I would have been bored by about 20% of the book and still be compelling myself to continue to struggle to the end. WELL, THAT DID NOT HAPPEN. 

Just like that Yeong turns from ordinary, according to her abusive and shallow husband Mr. Cheong, to aberrant. What follows is the aftermath of her decision (to be become a The Vegetarian, rather a vegan) and how her family reacts to it. Watch out, The Vegetarian is not an easy read. It will make you question your fundamental assumptions. 

The Vegetarian is on the surface a parable on how far can one go to stay put on one’s belief. 

But it talks more about the sexism and status of women in a patriarchal society like Korea and other South Asian countries in a pliable and compliant role. The men in Yeong’s life, and thus the novel, are all disgusting in one form or the other and maybe that played a part in her decision to change her life into a ‘plant like’ being. 

Bottom-line

If you want to read something that has a simple yet lyrical writing, yet will make you think about your judgmental self you should pick The Vegetarian by Han Kang. But be wary of triggering content – like sexual and physical  assaults, extra marital affairs and mental illness. You won’t be disappointed.

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Vegetarian

Let us talk

Have you read this book earlier? Does this book depict life in South Korea? Are there any other books set in South Korea that you have read? What books have you read this week?

46 Comments

  1. Tessa

    First of all, congratulations on 100 reviews! That is such a huge milestone (especially considering how great each review is)!

    Second, I have seen The Vegetarian around the Internet for a while now and I have been on the fence about reading it. Adult literary fiction (especially award-winners) isn’t normally in my genre comfort zone, but it looks like I will have to make an exception. I am always up for a good read with feminist undertones that can help me reverse some of my judgement and bias.

    Thanks for the amazing review!

    Reply
    • Gayathri

      Then I would recommend reading ‘The Handmaid’s tale’ as a start to feminism based adult literary fiction <3

      Reply
  2. Allie Bock

    Congrats on 100 reviews. Definitely an interesting one!

    Reply
    • Gayathri

      Yay thanks!

      Reply
  3. Christa

    I really loved this book. I’ve recently read a few of her other books including Human Acts and The White Book. Both were excellent.

    Reply
    • Gayathri

      I have not read anything else of hers. I will be looking out for her other books you have mentioned.

      Reply
  4. Lauren

    i had in my head this was the story the movie RAW was based off- idk why. either way ilove the soun dof this still

    Reply
    • Gayathri

      I have not seen RAW but I think you should try this one any way.

      Reply
  5. Cia Black

    What a milestone. Congrats

    Reply
    • Gayathri

      Thanks.

      Reply
    • Gayathri

      Thanks a lot!

      Reply
  6. Terri A. Wilson

    Congratulations on your 100th review!!!

    Reply
    • Gayathri

      Thanks!

      Reply
  7. Heidi

    This sounds interesting!

    Reply
    • Gayathri

      You should check it out Heidi!

      Reply
    • Gayathri

      It took a while to reach there. But it is worth it.

      Reply
    • Gayathri

      It is a hard read for sure. But it was worth it.

      Reply
  8. Love, Sawyer

    Congratulations on 100 reviews. This sounds like an interesting read.

    Reply
    • Gayathri

      Thanks! Glad you liked it.

      Reply
  9. DJ Sakata

    This is nothing like I expected it to be from the title – I wants it

    Reply
    • Gayathri

      Yes, I agree. It was a complete surprise.

      Reply
  10. Susanne

    Firstly, 100 review is a lot and something to be celebrated! Congratulations.
    Secondly, I can see why this book left you a bit confused. I think it would have the same effect on me but I need to read it first 😉

    Reply
    • Gayathri

      Thanks for your wishes!

      Reply
  11. Whispering Stories

    The book sounds like a poignant read. Lovely review.

    Reply
    • Gayathri

      It kinda was.

      Reply
  12. Jordanne

    This sounds brilliant! Great review!

    Reply
    • Gayathri

      Thanks !

      Reply
  13. Stormi

    congrats on 100 reviews!

    Reply
    • Gayathri

      Thanks 🙂

      Reply
    • Gayathri

      Well put, it would make a great book club read for discussion.

      Reply
  14. Andreea

    I got this book at a book fair a while ago because the story sounds quite scary, but intriguing enough for me to want to check it out – and I do not mean scary as in horror, but the whole not accepting a woman (or anyone)’s decision what to do with their own body/life.

    Reply
    • Gayathri

      This is not scary per se, but it is disturbing without a doubt. Let me know how you like it.

      Reply
  15. Tasha

    This sounds really unique and interesting.

    Reply
    • Gayathri

      Yes it was.

      Reply
  16. DJ Sakata

    Congrats on your milestone – to the next 100!

    Reply
    • Gayathri

      Thanks a lot.

      Reply
  17. Sharon

    I love books that make you stop and reevaluate your assumptions. I haven’t read a book set in Korea. This would be one I would love to explore.

    Reply
    • Gayathri

      Wow, you put my thoughts into better words. Thanks

      Reply
  18. Katelynne @ Bitch Bookshelf

    This sounds very intriguing and like something I would enjoy. Thanks for reviewing! I’ll add it to my TBR.

    Reply
    • Gayathri

      Glad you liked it.

      Reply
  19. Aparna Prabhu

    Quite an intriguing book, great review as always. I love books that centre around female protagonist.

    Reply
    • Gayathri

      Yes this had a strong feministic approach too.

      Reply

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