The Vegetarian: A Novel

Yeong-hye and her husband are ordinary people. He is an office worker with moderate ambitions and mild manners; she is an uninspired but dutiful wife. The acceptable flatline of their marriage is interrupted when Yeong-hye, seeking a more ‘plant-like’ existence, decides to become a vegetarian, prompted by grotesque recurring nightmares. In South Korea, where vegetarianism

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Yeong-hye and her husband are ordinary people. He is an office worker with moderate ambitions and mild manners; she is an uninspired but dutiful wife. The acceptable flatline of their marriage is interrupted when Yeong-hye, seeking a more ‘plant-like’ existence, decides to become a vegetarian, prompted by grotesque recurring nightmares. In South Korea, where vegetarianism is almost unheard-of and societal mores are strictly obeyed, Yeong-hye’s decision is a shocking act of subversion. Her passive rebellion manifests in ever more bizarre and frightening forms, leading her bland husband to self-justified acts of sexual sadism. His cruelties drive her towards attempted suicide and hospitalisation. She unknowingly captivates her sister’s husband, a video artist. She becomes the focus of his increasingly erotic and unhinged artworks, while spiralling further and further into her fantasies of abandoning her fleshly prison and becoming – impossibly, ecstatically – a tree. Fraught, disturbing and beautiful, The Vegetarian is a novel about modern day South Korea, but also a novel about shame, desire and our faltering attempts to understand others, from one imprisoned body to another.

Comments

Blake Fraina says:

Depressing, But Worth It Han Kang’s novel, The Vegetarian, tells the story of Yeong-hye, a non-descript South Korean housewife who, after a disturbing dream, stops eating meat as well as all animal-derived products. The novel is divided into three parts, each told from the point of view of a person who is impacted in some way by her decision. The first part is narrated by her husband, a callous, uncaring salary-man, who chose her specifically because she was unremarkable in every possible way. In the second…

Frank says:

I really enjoyed most of this book I really enjoyed most of this book. For me though something was missing to bring it all together. When I finished I felt a little disappointed. I would definitely give it a shot because most people disagree and I am glad I read it. Some haunting images that will stick with me for a long time.

Amy Shield says:

A haunting story of mental illness After a dream of blood and murder, Yeong-Han throws out all the meat and animal products in her home. Her husband, who married her as she was plain and quiet and would be no trouble, IS troubled. As is her family. YEong-Han begins a slow descent into mental illness. Her story is lyrically told through the voices of her husband, her brother-in-law and finally her sister. We see each of them more clearly by how they deal with Yeong-Han’s worsening condition. It is a haunting story with…

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