The Vegetarian by Han Kang

The Vegetarian: A Novel - Han Kang

This book really is quite the read. I finished it a while ago and I had to take some time upon finishing it to sort out my thoughts and feelings. First, let me start off by saying I almost gave up on this book. The book is split into three sections and there's a horrible event that takes place in the first section that made me feel really uncomfortable. The incident involved animal abuse and I am very sensitive when it comes to hurting animals. (I lost a dog a couple of years back and I never quite got over it.) So when I read about this poor dog being abused, I nearly put the book down for good. However, something told me to persevere. I pushed through those parts and read the book and I am so glad I did.


This book is smart. Incredibly so. It depicts what life is like for many people who go against the "status quo" in Korea and how tragic it can truly be. This book is supposed to shock you and make you feel uncomfortable. It's meant to make you sick in some places. It's detailing the very real and terrible events that can happen if you decide to break the mold.


The writing is absolutely breath-taking. It's as if you're reading poetry. Han Kang has a very lyrical way of writing and Deborah Smith, the translator, did an excellent job in conveying that in English. 


None of the characters are really likable but that's the point to the story. We never get the story from Yeong-hye's. the main character, point-of-view. It's always through someone else. Like her husband (who's a bit of a prick and needs to be slapped), her brother-in-law (who is also scum), and her sister (who isn't so bad, just needed to open her mind more). It's hard to like anyone from this story but their inclusion is important in order for Kang to tell the story.


I am really impressed by the risks Han Kang took to write such a harrowing novel. It's not an easy read, by no means. There's quite a bit of violence and sexual assault throughout the novel, but if you can stomach it, it's worth it for the beautiful writing and for the knowledge you'd gain from reading about Yeong-hye's life.