Book Reviews / Books

Review: The Vegetarian – Han Kang

05.03.17

The Vegetarian

I hadn’t planned on adding to my already towering pile of books in Bali until I flew to Singapore on a visa run. Despite already having three books packed for my three day break, as I was perusing the shelves of the airport bookshop, I added a further three; The Vegetarian, The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari and a page turner from Jane Green. I read The Vegetarian in a single sitting on a rare overcast morning in Bali. The skies outside were grey and looming, and the rain was loud against my window pane; a fitting backdrop to a dark and disturbing tale that won the 2016 Man Booker Prize.

Set in modern-day Seoul, The Vegetarian was written by South-Korean author Han Kang, and tells the story of Yeong-hye, who, following a series of gruesome and grotesque dreams, decides to give up meat. What follows is a succession of gut-wrenching events, that explore rage, desire and a descent into madness, as we witness the life of the protagonist unfold before her very eyes.

Possessing an almost a dreamlike quality, The Vegetarian offers an in-depth look at familial relations, and the power imbalance between men and women with horrifying consequences.

A quick, yet intelligent and compelling read, The Vegetarian is beautiful and brutal in equal measure. Horrifying, harrowing and heart-breaking at times, the ambiguous ending offers a perfect climax to a fraught and tense tale of woe.

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