Books

The Vegetarian by Han Kang

the vegetarian by han kang book review

The Vegetarian by Han Kang is the first book of hers that I ever picked up. I learned about her through RM’s reading list when I saw Human Acts was part of it and heard how RM talked about it on one of his vlives. After seeing her name, I got curious and researched about her. Turns out, The Vegetarian was awarded The Manbooker Prize in 2016 and because of this I got more excited and I binged read her books.

Now let’s get to the actual book review for The Vegetarian by Han Kang…

About The Book:

Before the nightmare, Yeong-hye and her husband lived an ordinary life. But when splintering, blood-soaked images start haunting her thoughts, Yeong-hye decides to purge her mind and renounce eating meat. In a country where societal mores are strictly obeyed, Yeong-hye’s decision to embrace a more “plant-like” existence is a shocking act of subversion. And as her passive rebellion manifests in ever more extreme and frightening forms, scandal, abuse, and estrangement begin to send Yeong-hye spiraling deep into the spaces of her fantasy. In a complete metamorphosis of both mind and body, her now dangerous endeavor will take Yeong-hye—impossibly, ecstatically, tragically—far from her once-known self altogether.

The Vegetarian by Han Kang Book Review:

I’ve read this book a few weeks back but up until now I’m still thinking about it. That’s how impactful it is for me. It is complex. It’s multi-layered. It’s full of symbolism.

This Han Kang novel centers around the woman named Young-hye who just one day stops eating meat. It is told in multiple point of views. We have the POV of her husband, brother-in-law, and her sister.

Young-hye is having a rough time and having these kinds of vicious nightmares and visions. That’s why she suddenly decides to be a vegetarian.

Young-hye feels very disconnected in life and so everyone around her feels really disconnected with her too. They can’t really understand her and the strange behaviors that she’s been exhibiting since becoming vegetarian.

There’s a lot of strange scenes and behaviors in the book that might or might not give you the ick but for me that really added to the charm of the book. You get to be inside the head of people going through hard times mentally and also see the perspectives of those people taking care of them.

I really like how this book bravely depicted the struggles of people having mental illnesses and seeing the events that led up to it. The symptoms, the reason, the impaired thought process. It is all there. Han Kang’s writing is very straightforward but you feel it all. She really communicates the message well.

This book is so profound and moving. It breaks my heart to be faced with the truth and to see it via this book. That in times of tragedy, even your loved ones might turn their backs at you. That there are people taking advantage of mentally-ill people, and that institutions and mental health care workers get tired too.

For me, this book deserved all the praises that it got.

Verdict: 5 stars

Quotes from The Vegetarian by Han Kang:

“The feeling that she had never really lived in this world caught her by surprise. It was a fact. She had never lived. Even as a child, as far back as she could remember, she had done nothing but endure.”
 
“Or perhaps it was simply that things were happening inside her, terrible things, which no one else could even guess at, and thus it was impossible for her to engage with everyday life at the same time. If so, she would naturally have no energy left, not just for curiosity or interest but indeed for any meaningful response to all the humdrum minutiae that went on on the surface.”
 
“When a person undergoes such a drastic transformation, there’s simply nothing anyone else can do but sit back and let them get on with it.”
 
“Why, is it such a bad thing to die?”

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Jam Nesreen

 

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