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The Vegetarian

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3.59  ·  Rating details ·  104,242 ratings  ·  14,009 reviews
Before the nightmare, Yeong-hye and her husband lived an ordinary life. But when splintering, blood-soaked images start haunting her thoughts, Yeong-hye decides to purge her mind and renounce eating meat. In a country where societal mores are strictly obeyed, Yeong-hye's decision to embrace a more “plant-like” existence is a shocking act of subversion. And as her passive r ...more
Hardcover, 188 pages
Published February 2nd 2016 by Hogarth Press (first published October 30th 2007)
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Leah Stein I don't think there's a clear thing to "get" here. It's purposely open for interpretation, while it's also a very open ending; we don't know what happ…moreI don't think there's a clear thing to "get" here. It's purposely open for interpretation, while it's also a very open ending; we don't know what happens next. But the story, I felt, was more of an allegory than the character's story, and they were used to portray a certain conflict that exists within all humans. In part 1 we see the process of one giving in to a deep calling within themselves, one they can't quite put into words. In part 2 we see a more 'wrong' side of that giving in to our animalistic, or primitive, desires - when it affects those around us and harms them. And finally in part 3, I felt like the sister was much like the reader, trying to piece the two parts together and begin self-reflection. How much can I relate to these characters who have succumbed to their impulses? Are they 'wrong' just because they don't act as society says they should? Should we suppress our deepest desires? Is that a life worth living? There is also a big question about responsibility, I felt, how the sister confesses that she also has these crazy ideas sometimes, and she has had suicidal thoughts in the past, but in the end, she didn't act upon these feelings or impulses. And that's why I think the ending is left hanging - kinda feels like mid-sentence almost - because there is a big question here and it doesn't have an answer. Each of us can answer for ourselves. This book is like a case study at the beginning of an interesting debate, in my opinion.(less)
Lexie I live in Korea and came here as a vegetarian. I work in the public school system and we eat the cafeteria food together. At first I would pack my own…moreI live in Korea and came here as a vegetarian. I work in the public school system and we eat the cafeteria food together. At first I would pack my own food and I was always being bombared with questions.

Yes, my Korean co-workers were really concerned about my health. They just thought it was curious of me to intentionally make the choice to avoid eating a whole food group. Everytime I got sick they would imply it was in part due to my poor diet choices!

Also, food sharing is such a big part of Korean culture! In my experience I felt that if everyone was eating from the same dish, it was considered slightly rude to reject it. This made dinner outings quite difficult when I was the only vegetarian at a table! One co-teacher had told me that to reject a meal is to reject an offer of friendship.

Of course there is the Buddhist population and they have some lovely vegetarian restaurants, however they usually serve "temple food" rather than modern vegetarian creations. They also serve vegetarian meals at the temples.

This book takes it to another extreme of course, but I personally did find it kind of comical haha just because of how meat loving Koreans tend to be. :)(less)

Community Reviews

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Average rating 3.59  · 
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Sean Barrs
This book wasn’t a casual read for me. This is deeply personal to my own beliefs. I’m a vegan. This book sung a song that I heard in my marrow; it made me realise so much.

As a vegan I’ve experienced some of the things that I witnessed here. I can relate to it. I’ve lived it. I’ve been called a heretic. I’ve lost friends over it, and experienced much social awkwardness just for my lifestyle choice. I’m not pushy with my beliefs. Sometimes all it takes is a mention of the word “vegetarian” to be
...more
Matthew
Jan 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library, 2017
Well . . . um . . . yeah . . . so

I guess that was good . . . maybe . . .

Kinda weird . . . I think . . .

Definitely a bit much . . . oh, no doubt . . . but . . .

Poignant perhaps . . . certainly heart strings were tugged . . . however . . .

Confusion! Yes! That's it . . . or, maybe not . . .

100% sure I was 90% moved by being 80% lost while at the same time being 70% disturbed . . .

This book . . . yup . . . it's . . . sure, I guess?
...more
Elyse  Walters
Update: Han Kang's book, "The Vegetarian", is the Man Booker international winner


Wow...****
****ZERO spoilers
I'm going to share my experience....and hope to find other readers to discuss this book with later.

I couldn't 'not' read this in anything less than one sitting.
If I keep thinking about this book, not only will I have a knot in my stomach as I do now...but I just might find myself crying my eyes out!

I haven't felt so many intense emotions from a book in a long time.
Zillions of thoughts f
...more
Lala BooksandLala
Mar 13, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2020
wtfno.

Book 10 of 30 for my 30 day reading challenge. And now I'm 3 days behind on my challenge because this book was exhausting to get through.
...more
Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~
Aug 25, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 1-star, year-2017
Nope.

This is the story of two sisters & their husbands & one woman's tendency toward violent, graphic dreams.

Honestly, I'm not sure what I was supposed to take from this book & I'm not going to pretend for the sake of sounding intelligent or profound that I "got it."

I absolutely did not enjoy reading this, and I'm thankful it was over quickly. The men in this book are repulsive & selfish, and I could not identify with either sister. The lack of straightforward communication between all of the
...more
Felice Laverne
“Though the ostensible reason for her not wanting Yeong-hye to be discharged, the reason that she gave the doctor, was this worry about a possible relapse, now she was able to admit to herself what had really been going on. She was no longer able to cope with all that her sister reminded her of. She’d been unable to forgive her for soaring alone over a boundary she herself could never bring herself to cross, unable to forgive that magnificent irresponsibility that had enabled Yeong-hye to shuck ...more
Edward Lorn
Jan 22, 2016 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Jared from Subway and fans of Vantage Point
Update #2: I've gotten enough comments from dudes for me to update this review. Oddly enough, it's just dudes, too. No woman has commented about how I'm wrong about Kang saying the book is an allegory for South Korea. And I can only guess it's because women ACTUALLY READ THE FUCKIN DESCRIPTION. From the dust jacket AND the product description here on Goodreads:

"A disturbing, yet beautifully composed narrative told in three parts, The Vegetarian is an allegorical novel about modern day South Kore
...more
Justin
Dec 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
Honestly, in this case, I'm much more interested in reading other people's reviews of the book rather than writing my own. I just feel like there are so many layers here, so many things that need to be discussed, so many unique interpretations, so many questions.

The first third of The Vegetarian is very Kafka-esque. It has a very Metamorphosis vibe to it. Maybe a little bit of Bird Box to give you a more contemporary example. It was dark. It was weird. It was bleak. It felt like every sentence
...more
Megan Johnson
Feb 19, 2016 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: international book lovers, and anyone looking for something different/memorable
Shelves: general-fiction
Han Kang's novel, 'The Vegetarian,' tells the story of Yeong-hye. Having recently had a dream that has convinced her to cease eating any meat whatsoever, and finds that such a decision is affect nearly all aspects of her life. Her family is trying to force her to eat meat, the relationships that once surrounded her are falling apart, and everyone is questioning whether she is insane. The thing is, she just might be losing her mind - and all because of a dream.

This book isn't super long. In fact,
...more
Candi
“It’s your body, you can treat it however you please. The only area where you’re free to do just as you like. And even that doesn’t turn out how you wanted.”

I don’t even know how to begin describing this novel. I’m guessing that in a year’s time or more, it will still hold true that this was one of the most haunting, unsettling and tragic novels I’ve read in a long time. For a slim book, there’s a great deal to mull over and discuss. There are many different ways of looking at this besides what
...more
Cecily
How to review this cold, voyeuristic, sexy, ugly, beautiful, disturbing novella?
The single story is told in three sections, from three points of view - in three different genres: from a domestic drama of a marriage suddenly under strain, through erotica, to madness and borderline magical-realism. But we never hear from the subject herself.

At the end… I felt adrift, rather than rooted. Intrigued, moved, and pleasantly bemused.

Triggers: This book is probably unusable for those in the depths of e
...more
Whitney Atkinson
I gave myself 24 hours to think over this before rating it, but I still don't know... i'm left off very confused... This is a book about characters whose backstories and full character arcs aren't really explored, so it was jarring to read a character-heavy book whose main focus is on a woman that we never even see the perspective of. Maybe i'm missing something, and i'm horrified that I did because everyone else loves this book, but this just read very strangely to me. By the end I understood t ...more
Adina
Nov 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
“She was no longer able to cope with all that her sister reminded her of. She'd been unable to forgive her for soaring alone over a boundary she herself could never bring herself to cross, unable to forgive that magnificent irresponsibility that had enabled Yeong-hye to shuck off social constraints and leave her behind, still a prisoner. And before Yeong-hye had broken those bars, she'd never even known they were there.”

For a small book it took me a lot of time to finish. The reason is that I w
...more
emma
I am my own worst enemy.

I am the one who eats all the cookies, for example, preventing myself from having cookies to eat. I am the one who accidentally stays up until the wee hours of the morning because I suddenly need to research that mass-hysteria-in-medieval-France thing where no one could stop laughing.

And most pertinently, I am the one who said “review and rating to come” on this book, assuming future me would have figured out my feelings.

Spoiler alert: Future me has not figured out anyth
...more
Jim Fonseca
Jun 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
The author makes a point of starting the story by telling us it’s about an ordinary couple. The man, recognizing that he is nothing special, marries a woman whom he calls “the most run-of-the-mill woman in the world.”

The young woman, living in Seoul, starts having nightmares full of blood and hanging meat. She decides to become a vegetarian. Her husband is irate and even recruits her family to help him get her to start eating and cooking meat again.

description

That pressure and the continuing nightmares pu
...more
Ariel
HUH. *nods head slowly* I started this a few years ago, put it down with every intention to return, and finally did (in audiobook form). I left this feeling that I hadn't connected to the characters or story very much, but finding the world that was built and the ideas presented really interesting. I left it not wanting necessarily to recommend it to anyone but certainly wanting to write an essay about it to unpack what happened. HUH. ...more
Fabian
Feb 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
She's turned vegetarian... now what a ridiculous b!+ch!

Riveting adult fiction. What do I mean by "adult"? In middle school you would not have understood it; in high school you would have hated it. But adults acting as children, having crises in front of their community at high noon? Yeah. I've been indoctrinated.

Han Kang has a taut, very animalistic tale of madness and marriage to share with us. So... Let's eat!
...more
Ruby Granger
Jul 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Before reading this, I was warned that it was weird. And yes, it kind of was. But not in a surreal way. It was more that the writing was so raw, subversive and undulating that it became weird in its honesty.

Either way, one of the best books I've read this year.
...more
Amalia Gkavea
''Dark woods. No people. The sharp-pointed leaves in the trees, my torn feet. This place, almost remembered, but I'm lost now. Frightened. Cold. Across the frozen ravine, a red barn-like building. Straw matting flapping limp across the door. Roll it up and I'm inside, it's inside. A long bamboo stick strung with great blood-red gashes of meat, there's no end to the meat, and no exit. Blood in my mouth, blood-soaked clothes washed onto my skin.''

A young woman decides to stop eating meat to th
...more
Michael
Jan 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
A disturbing novel about anorexia, patriarchy, and abuse, The Vegetarian explores the emotional toll of violence against women. The novel follows Yeong-hye, a young South Korean woman trapped in a loveless marriage, as she stops eating meat and starts to starve herself and rebel against her callous family after having a blood-soaked nightmare. Yeong-hye’s behavior grows increasingly erratic and self-destructive across the novel’s three equal-length parts, in turn narrated from the perspectives o ...more
Lisa
Aug 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: man-booker
I read The Vegetarian during a day-long trip on buses, trains and planes, starting at about 8 o'clock in the morning, finishing when the plane touched down an hour late at my final destination.

Readers, be warned: this experiment should not necessarily be repeated, it may cause utter distress and embarrassment.

8 o'clock, inner city bus in a major German city:

"Before my wife turned vegetarian, I'd always thought of her as completely unremarkable in every way."

I laugh out loud, and gather some su
...more
MischaS_
Honestly? I don't know what to say. This was one of the hardest books to read, ever.

I started once a few months ago, and at the scene where (view spoiler), I broke. I could not continue. It was so painful. And I could not imagine the horror of your own family doing that to you.

The story is about Yeong-here but except for little snippets (dreams), we follow it through different POV. It had a certain feeling to it like she was degraded from being an adu
...more
Maxwell
Mar 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: translated
The Vegetarian is a very cerebral novel. And yet, it's incredibly affecting. Han Kang is able to explore dark and twisted events--and characters--in a really engaging way. It's thrilling to see the story devolve, and I have to say I was never quite sure what was going to happen next. Overall it was such a fun reading experience (which if you've read this book definitely doesn't reflect the subject matter) mostly because the story felt so fresh and exciting. I really can't compare this to anythin ...more
Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin
MY BLOG: Melissa Martin's Reading List

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I'm almost at a loss for words on how to review this book. I loved it, it was sad and bizarre, but when dealing with mental illness, not that much is bizarre. I have my own mental illnesses so I don't put too much into what people think because there are those that support you and those that don't. And to me, in my opinion, I think Yeong-hye might not have slipped into this world as far as she did if she had support from her family. One can never tell.

I wis
...more
Seemita
[Originally appeared here (with edits): http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/li...]

Many of us, if stretch a little, can recall the question that appeared in our science textbooks in primary schools: choose the living and non-living thing from the following options. While we conveniently tagged all humans, animals and plants to the ‘living’ side, everything else chugged to the ‘non living’ side. But did the divide stand the test of time?

Han Kang pushes this very divide to scintillating heights, red
...more
j e w e l s
Jul 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
FOUR STARS

Call me crazy. I like to challenge myself with "intellectual" novels that win awards. THE VEGETARIAN was definitely demanding and it's another one to add to my appreciate, but didn't exactly enjoy it file.

This South Korean story of an "unremarkable" woman that wakes up from a nightmare and declares herself to be vegetarian is an odd story of rebellion. The woman absolutely infuriates her husband and parents with this assertive decision and somehow becomes a rebel, a subversive, an out
...more
lark benobi
Feb 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This was a perfect, perfect book for me. The novel is simply told, and very short, but it touches on so many critical, cut-to-the-bone themes, including the most fundamental questions of identity, of gender, of responsibility toward others, and of what makes life worth living. In this novel the more outwardly stable and successful a character is, the less likely they are to have any perspective on their life choices. The more a given character becomes aware of their lived experience, the closer ...more
Thomas
May 28, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: adult-fiction, horror
I liked several aspects of The Vegetarian on an intellectual level. Han Kang does a great job portraying how women suffer from the male gaze, patriarchal standards that make them adhere to men, and abuse brought on by the forced consumption of meat and the men who partake in said consumption. As a future psychologist passionate about eating disorders, though, I abhorred how Kang portrayed Yeong-hye's descent into anorexia. Yes, I get that her refusal to eat meat and then food overall symbolizes ...more
Nat
Aug 06, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: diverse-reads
Before the nightmare, Yeong-hye and her husband lived an ordinary life. But when splintering, blood-soaked images start haunting her thoughts, Yeong-hye decides to purge her mind and renounce eating meat.

In a country where societal mores are strictly obeyed, Yeong-hye's decision to embrace a more “plant-like” existence is a shocking act of subversion. And as her passive rebellion manifests in ever more extreme and frightening forms, scandal, abuse, and estrangement begin to send Yeong-hye spiral
...more
Maxine (Booklover Catlady)
Stunning. Sad. Disturbing. Powerful. Unique. Astonishing. Surprising. Profound. Painful. Distressing. Moving. Exceptional. Impacting.

This is straight into my Top Ten Reads of 2016! Skipping the long list and the short list.

Wow. Let me catch my breath. No wonder this book won The Man Booker Prize 2016. I've never read anything like it. Finally translated into English for us to treasure and delve into its depths!

Expect nothing when you read this book. Have an open mind. No preconceived concepts.
...more
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소설가 한강

Han Kang is the daughter of novelist Han Seung-won. She was born in Kwangju and at the age of 10, moved to Suyuri (which she speaks of affectionately in her work "Greek Lessons") in Seoul.

She studied Korean literature at Yonsei University. She began her writing career when one of her poems was featured in the winter issue of the quarterly Literature and Society. She made her official liter
...more

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Did you set an extremely ambitious Reading Challenge goal back in January? And has this, uh, unprecedented year gotten completely in the way of...
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“The feeling that she had never really lived in this world caught her by surprise. It was a fact. She had never lived. Even as a child, as far back as she could remember, she had done nothing but endure. She had believed in her own inherent goodness, her humanity, and lived accordingly, never causing anyone harm. Her devotion to doing things the right way had been unflagging, all her successes had depended on it, and she would have gone on like that indefinitely. She didn't understand why, but faced with those decaying buildings and straggling grasses, she was nothing but a child who had never lived.” 260 likes
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