Review: The Vegetarian


The Vegetarian
The Vegetarian by Han Kang
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a powerful, nearly perfect book. I think the first part is the strongest, in which Kang sets up the creepy premise: that terrifying, murderous nightmares possess an otherwise ordinary woman to give up meat. As the book progresses, we see this oddity evolve into an obsession, then to a complete departure from reality as the protagonist descends into madness.

Each of the three parts is told by a different point of view: first her husband, then her brother-in-law, last her sister. The first two parts compound the inherent violence of the prose by presenting the heroine as a kind of possession of the narrator. This insidious undertone really emphasizes the symbols of dominion, control, and social behavior the author explores throughout the book. Parts one and two also each end with a frightful crescendo. Sadly, part three breaks all of these patterns and continues the still creepy story as an emotional relationship between two sisters. I had in mind as I was reading some kind of ultimate, grotesque climax, bordering on science fiction, but alas, it never came. Nonetheless, this is an incredibly original and creative book, and I hope more of the author’s work is translated into English.

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Victor A. Davis has always loved reading and writing short stories. He is an avid hiker and even when away from the world of laptops and wifi, keeps a pocket paperback and a handwritten journal to keep him company on trail. He is the author of two short story collections, Grains of Sand and The Gingerbread Collection. Join his Mailing List for special announcements about upcoming works.