The Vegetarian ~ by Han Kang x2

Reading this again for a group even though it is a disturbing novel – it’s also exceptionally good – if you can stand to read it.

The first time I appreciated it and I knew it was beautifully done,  but I was certain I hadn’t really understood it.   This time kind of cleared that up.    There are several reasons for me to read a book twice and one is because I think there was substantially more to it than I absorbed in the first reading.   That’s this time.


The Vegetarian
by Han Kang
translated by Debra Smith

2016/  194 pages
read by Janet Song, Stephen Park  5h 14m
rating:  9 / contemp fiction

Other times it’s just because a book I read awhile back is on a group schedule now.  I enjoyed it at the first time and I’ve already have  the book (because I buy them) so I read it again.  That’s this time, too.

Finally,  I think I sometimes read a book just to revisit an old friends but that reason does not apply this time. My first review is at:

The Vegetarian consists of a series of first person narratives each of which is basically a stand alone story dealing with the same subject.

Yeong-hye’s husband, a young businessman,  tells his part of the story first.  His wife, Yeong-hye,  is simply a young   homemaker.  They live in an apartment in modern day Seoul,  South Korea and are a supposedly fairly typical couple without children.  He thinks of his wife as really ordinary and that’s really all he wants,  conformity.

One day Yeong-hye decides not to eat meat anymore due to a horrible dream she has had.  At a dinner party with his boss that evening she puts her vegetarianism  into action.  Her husband is very embarrassed and angry.  Yeong-hye is not acting in a manner appropriate to the wife of an up-and-coming businessman so her husband is angry and confused.  Later,  Yeong-hye does the same thing at her parents’ house which results in her being hit by her father.  Being a vegetarian by choice is not something good. conforming, middle class people in Korea do.

Then her sister’s husband narrates the tale of his involvement with Yeong-hye.  He is an artist and takes video movies of the two of them in various stages of sex – except they have painted themselves with  flowers and he thinks of them as intertwining.  His wife, Yeong-hye’s sister, finds the video now both marriages are destroyed. Actually,  his treatment of Yeong-hye in the videos is more abuse of her,  especially considering her increasingly fragile state.

There is a third section which the sister, In-hye, narrates – I’ll not get into that as it would be spoiler territory but I will say it’s surprising.

This is a novel of inner and outer conflict,  about social conformity,  about  violence to self and others as well as from others in a paternalist society.  It’s also about mental illness and the treatment of victims.  There is a lot packed into 194 pages – ,

This entry was posted in 2023 Fiction. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to The Vegetarian ~ by Han Kang x2

  1. Aymee says:

    This book sounds bizarre and fascinating all at the same time. I can see why it might need a second reading to absorb it all!


  2. Cool – I hope you enjoy it.


  3. delphinethebabbler says:

    I just finished reading this one and WOW, it’s one of those reads that just sticks with you. I found it interesting how Yeong-hye’s both physical and mental decline resulted in the complete and utter collapse of all those around her from the stability of her husband, to her relationship with her brother-in-law and even the emotional balance of her sister.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Convenience Store Woman ~ Sayaka Murata | Becky's Books –

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s