The Vegetarian by Han Kang
Published by Hogarth on February 2, 2016
Genres: [Adult] Contemporary, Literary Fiction
2 Stars, Completed March 20, 2016
– to avoid SPOILERS read the bold only –
A long bamboo stick strung with great blood-red gashes of meat, blood still dripping down. Try to push past but the meat, there’s no end to the meat, and no exit. Blood in my mouth, blood-soaked clothes sucked to my skin.
I put this review off for the longest because, honestly, when I finished the book I never wanted to revisit it again. Dark, disturbing, and depressing would be how I’d describe Han Kang’s The Vegetarian in three words.
The Vegetarian is a split narrative between three characters related to the protagonist, Yeong-hye: her husband, brother-in-law, and sister. Yeong-hye’s husband’s perspective is straightforward and the most fast paced; her brother-in-law’s is disturbing and beyond creepy; and her sister’s is the only one told in the present tense and rather confusing. However, all three are allegorical reflections that allow readers to gain further insight on Yeong-hye’s behavior after an unsettling series of dreams she has that causes her to go vegan-not vegetarian (the translated title is misleading)-and how her family and Korean society reacts toward her drastic, manic changes.