A diet is a way of living. Living is a way of being and interacting with the world. As no two people experience the world in the same way, so too do no two people leave the same impact on the world. The oddities in how other people’s behavior, particularly in accordance to the world, is explored through Han Kang’s The Vegetarian.
Yeong-hye is an ordinary woman. Perhaps too much so, at least according to her husband. But when she rather suddenly becomes a vegetarian and imposes this lifestyle upon her husband, he, with the help of her family, stages an intervention, which only drives her to more drastic, life-harming actions. Yeong-hye’s brother-in-law is deeply affected by Yeong-hye’s actions and the Mandarin mark on her buttock that his wife, In-hye, mentioned in passing. Developing his fascination with humans covered in flowers, he creates a work of art that leads to him run away from his marriage and son. In-hye internalizes her family’s actions and deals with them to the best of her ability, but she begins to wear down and wonder if her sister doesn’t have it right all along–that it’s better to give in to the delusions than be taken away by them.
A haunting narrative filled with guilt, deep contemplation, and obsession. Some of the translation was rough and the word choices didn’t make too much sense for the actions being done – for example, “sketching a bow” is not a common way to describe bowing and instead evokes drawing, which doesn’t completely complement the action. It would have been more interesting to be in the mind of Yeong-hye rather than in the mind of her husband, her brother-in-law, or her sister – even if her sister’s perspective toward the end skewed itself closer to her psychosis.
Overall, I’d give it a 3.5 out of 5 stars.
*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.