By Han Kang
Yeong-hye is a very quiet woman, who lives and exceedingly normal life with her husband. Then the dreams begin. They are vivid and full of violence, depicting gruesome scenes of torture. Yeong-hye is driven to give up meat and begin life as a vegetarian and cleanse herself. However, the change is not welcomed by her controlling husband and a rift is created within their marriage. After he enlists the assistance of her family to attempt to correct her “behavior”, a string of ill-fated events ultimately drive Yeong-hye to detach from not only family, but herself and reality.
This was a difficult read for me, and it is an even more challenging review. I have been sitting at my desk for longer than I will admit, and I still know the end results will not convey what I have taken away from The Vegetarian. Boldly written and consisting of just under 200 pages, there is an explosive amount happening from cover to cover. I was astonished and repulsed at the same time while each page beckoned me to continue. Yet I wanted to throw this book across the room and scream! So why was I so this so hard to read?
Han Kang’s writing is hauntingly beautiful, graphic (there is violent and sexual content) and captivating. Words easily transform from mere letters on pages into flowing imagery as the reader is fully submersed into a new world that refuses to let go. Reading this title is much like being hypnotized. Part of me wanted to break free. Yet I was drawn further and further in. I could not escape this story. It stirred something within me and continues to do so.
So why would I be compelled to throw this title across the room? Because it has also successfully infuriated me on a multitude of levels. This is Yeong-hye’s story and it is not a happy one. There are zero pleasantries. It is full of darkness, neglect and abuse. While it resonates with me, it also evokes strong feelings of anger and resentment. I discovered that I was completely disgusted with each character in this story for various reasons and was not prepared for this at all. It is is deep and packed to the brim with emotions.This is not an easy read for so few pages.
I feel safe classifying the characters as the main setting for The Vegetarian. It is what unfolds mentally that builds the world of this story. It will be impossible to elaborate in great detail on each without divulging spoilers or stripping away from the true effect of this book. I can tell you that while I found the main character to be stubborn, I was also incessantly annoyed with her moments of relentless silence. She felt utterly despondent whileI knew there had to be so much more happening under the surface. I wanted to shake it out of her. I was commpletely torn. Was her silence a weakness or a form of her strength?
“She’s a good woman, he thought. The kind of woman whose goodness is oppressive.”
― Han Kang,
The Vegetarian is symbolic collision of hot buttons. A very personal reading experience that can only be interpreted by the individual. It may encite feelings surrounding issues of how culture effects women, mental health, and sexual desires. It may encourage you to view the human spirit on a new level and assess what happens when that spirit is neglected. I found myself questioning abandonment and isolation. What do these things do to us as a person? What happens when we are stripped of all support and left to suffer internally within the confines of our own mind?
“The pain feels like a hole swallowing her up, a source of intense fear and yet, at the same time, a strange, quiet peace.”
― Han Kang,
With an enigmatic ending, the conclusion is entirely your own. That is part of what makes this title so impactful. I will be left to reflect on this story for days. The Vegetarian is a fantastic read for anyone who seeks thought-provoking fiction. Do not let its size mislead you. This one is powerful!
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this honest review, and I am easily giving this 4 stars.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐