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The Vegetarian by Han Kang
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The Vegetarian (2007)

by Han Kang

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
1,1471747,123 (3.59)1 / 233
  1. 31
    Human Acts: A Novel by Kang Han (whitsunweddings)
    whitsunweddings: It's briefly mentioned in The Vegetarian that the Artist is a 5.18 survivor. For those unfamiliar, Han Kang's book on the Gwangju Massacre gives context for the trauma that he - and Korea as a whole - went through.
  2. 10
    Sarah Canary by Karen Joy Fowler (vwinsloe)
    vwinsloe: Both books involve a mysterious woman and the perceptions, projections and assumptions about her by others.
  3. 00
    Hikikomori and the Rental Sister: A Novel by Jeff Backhaus (KatyBee)
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English (170)  Spanish (2)  German (2)  Piratical (1)  Italian (1)  All (176)
Showing 1-5 of 170 (next | show all)
Beautifully written, (and translated) tale of woe. One of those books that stays with you long after you finished reading it. A short novel that I read avidly in two sessions, a rare feat for me, plus I didn't want it to end. The story is told in three parts by three of the characters involved. It is not about vegetarianism per se, but the main character has a dream after which she decides to stop eating meat. That is just a first indication that her behaviour is becoming more unconventional than usual. ( )
  kazzer2u | Oct 13, 2017 |
This was an odd book. I'm not sure I liked it. The central character is not given much of a voice as the other narrators use and abuse her. It's all a bit mysterious and confusing. Everyone seems to gradually lose their mind in one way or another, and there is precious little warmth or love in the family relationships in the book. But it's quite hypnotic and memorable with some very striking scenes. ( )
  AlisonSakai | Oct 3, 2017 |
Read this one for Women in Translation month, based on the recommendation of The Reading Women podcast.

This was.....dark, unsettling, sometimes horrifying, and always fascinating. Definitely not for everyone, but I'm certain I won't soon forget it. ( )
  NeedMoreShelves | Sep 1, 2017 |
A curiously complex tale that in an odd way, almost has nothing to do with being a vegetarian. (To be exact, she became a vegan, but maybe that’s not as intriguing of a title.) Yeung-hye, after waking from a horrific blood-soaked nightmare, instantly declared herself and the household to be vegan. All the meat and eggs were tossed from the fridge; her leather shoes were tossed too (at least she didn’t throw away her husband’s shoes). The sudden turn of events was a shock to her husband and her family. Her continued nightmares led to her declining health and detachment to social norms, resulting in a domino effect of worsening events for her and those around her.

The story is told in three parts – the first is from her husband mixed with her thoughts in italics which conveniently explains the nightmares, the second is from her brother in law, the last is from her elder sister. With all is happening TO HER, it’s somewhat irritating that the viewpoints are from others, not her. She’s the protagonist without a voice, which is a truth in her life, being the subject to her father’s abuse and later being the benign, obedient wife – until she wasn’t. Her will to do something, anything about the nightmares broke the chains that bind her to expectations – family, clothing, food, sex – nothing mattered. Unfortunately, society doesn’t accept those outside of the lines easily, and her physical torment continues as she found peace in her own lost mental world withering to nothingness.

This Kafkaesque book has all the Kafka recipe of alienation (family), existential anxiety (nightmares and the art sequence), guilt (family members), and absurdity (frankly, the whole story and the non-ending). The book has passages that are noteworthy – intense, passionate, raw, and even a bit erotic; the peek into the South Korean culture and norms is appreciated as well. Despite SIX pages of accolades at the front of the book and doing additional research to understand better, this book is difficult to like or to recommend. The characters are unlikeable, even the protagonist. The plot touches a bit on several critical topics but none in depth. By leaving things open-ended, the author seems to have escaped the responsibility of explanations.

Unfortunately, I doubt I can forget this book, so that hits the 3-star mark. ( )
  varwenea | Aug 28, 2017 |
So many awkward phrases and phrasings make me think the translator failed to do this story justice, but unfortunately I have no way of knowing how it reads in its L1. ( )
  BenBeach | Aug 10, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 170 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Han Kangprimary authorall editionscalculated
Smith, DeborahTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Before my wife turned vegetarian, I'd always thought of her as completely unremarkable in every way.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Yeong-Bye 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-Bye, seeking a more 'plant-like' existence, commits a shocking act of subversion. As her rebellion manifests in ever more bizarre and frightening forms, Yeong-Bye spirals further and further into her fantasies of abandoning her fleshly prison and becoming - impossibly, ecstatically - a tree.
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