Edward Lorn's Reviews > The Vegetarian

The Vegetarian by Han Kang
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it was ok
Recommended 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 Korea..."

Come on, guys. You can't be this fucking dense.


UPDATE: Since reading this book, I've seen numerous reviews from women who claim this book speaks to the hidden violence and hate women keep in their heart. I am, of course, not a woman and do not claim to know the struggles of the opposite sex, but I am willing to admit that I might have missed something a woman might easily find. As stated in my review, the author herself has said the book is an allegory for present-day South Korea. When discussing the book, Kang mentions nothing about any female metaphors, but if women are finding them, that's cool. That means Han Kang's art is affecting a large group of people in ways the author didn't intend. I find that fascinating and exceedingly cool. I, however, did not enjoy the book as a whole and stand by my review and rating. I've added this update to perhaps persuade you ladies who enjoy literary fiction to give this novel a try. I'm a dude and will only ever be a dude, and dudes are notoriously short-sighted when it comes to the ladies. So give it a go and see if it speaks to you as it has so many others. Now on to the review...

The Vegetarian is my first real disappointment of 2016. Too bad, too, because it was going so well.

Here we have a story that starts off creepy and interesting. Then, about 60 pages in, it slams face-first into a tree and, like Sonny Bono, never recovers. (Too soon?) The first third of the book (the novel is broken up into three 60-page sections) is told in first-person past tense. The second part switches to third-person past tense, and while still an interesting part of the story, caused the narrative to come to a grinding halt while we have to get to know a whole other person only to relive entire sections of the first sixty pages. And then, finally, in the third part, the author swings into third-person present tense and completely shits the bed. We're forced to get to know someone else that doesn't matter and relive certain aspects of both the first and second parts.

This is a novella stretched into a 188-page novel. Supposedly it is an allegorical study of present-day Korea, but I cannot comment on the accuracy of that statement. All I know is, I was onboard until the author started switching POVs and tenses and repeating shit ad nauseum, as if this were the novelization of Vantage Point. Anyone remember that movie? The non-crazy Quaid brother plays a secret service officer, or some shit? The entire story is only about 15 minutes long, but it's told from the perspectives of like eight motherfuckers? Oh well. It's an all right movie. Better than this book, at any rate.

Holy kitten nipples, where the fuck was I?

Oh yeah. Shit book. Well, that's not fair. It's not a completely shit book. The first 60 pages are rad. The next sixty pages are okay. The last 60 are pointless and boring. Overall, a very unbalanced read. Had I paid for this one instead of getting a review copy from Crown Publishing in exchange for the review you are currently reading, I probably would've been pissed.

In summation: Allegorical or not, this book failed on certain levels for me. The last time I saw something go this bad this quickly was when we found out Jared from Subway was forcing underage boys to eat his footlong. Not recommended.

Final Judgment: I wanna like you, but you're you, and I don't like you.
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Reading Progress

January 22, 2016 – Shelved
January 22, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read
February 4, 2016 – Started Reading
February 4, 2016 –
page 63
32.81% "Dread has been slowly building, and I am now thoroughly unsettled. This book is insidious."
February 6, 2016 –
page 110
57.29% "Still enjoying this book, but sometimes its word choice is awkward at best. wondering if its the translator's or the author's fault. "J's nipples quietly hardened..." Um... are nipples ever anything other than quiet? I'd love to meet a screaming nipple or a gossipy areola."
February 6, 2016 –
page 159
82.81% "I do not see this ending well. \n \n Side note: What an odd little book."
February 6, 2016 –
page 192
100.0% "I have no idea what the fuck I just read. So confused right now."
February 6, 2016 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-50 of 54 (54 new)


Ellen Gail Oh my god I'm literally crying I'm laughing so hard at this! I've got an arc of this around that I haven't gotten to yet. Hopefully I can squeeze some enjoyment out of it. Hope you and your next read get along better.


Edward Lorn Thanks, Ellen. I hope you like this one more than I did.

And I'm glad I could make you laugh. :)


message 3: by Erika (new)

Erika Haha! Wow, this review is too great. Thanks for making me laugh.


Edward Lorn Thanks, Erika. :)


message 5: by Thomas (new)

Thomas Strömquist Great Sunday morning reading! Sorry about the book though.


Shelby *trains flying monkeys* Bahahahaaa! I love it!


message 7: by Ɗẳɳ 2.☊ (new)

Ɗẳɳ  2.☊ Lmao....too funny!


Sabrina Nyuki Exactly.


Aaron Nash finished it today. pretty much agree with you.


Chris Sarda I can't find her saying it's allegorical about Korean culture.

I found mostly the opposite from her in fact. That it's supposed to be a more human story about whether we can actually reject violence.

The Korean culture allegory things seems to be an anglo-cultural thing we've randomly placed on the first Korean author most of us have read.


Edward Lorn Oh, if you can't find it that must be true!

Just kidding, it's in the Goodreads synopsis: "The Vegetarian is an allegorical novel about modern day South Korea..."

Thanks for commenting, Chris!


message 12: by Brian (new)

Brian Joynt Think I'll pass on this one.


message 13: by Allana (new) - added it

Allana "I'm a dude and will only ever be a dude, and dude's are notoriously short-sighted when it comes to the ladies" Oh, God, loved this update hahahahaha


message 14: by Jude (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jude 100% accurate description of this book: the first 60 pages were cool, but it was as if they never happened later on. Weird ending, too.


Laura Ioana Great review, my thoughts exactly! (and I am not a dude...)


shanghao I get where the allegories to Korea were coming from, but like you, I felt the book wanting...the writing's good but structurally it's quite disjointed imo


message 17: by Lori (new) - rated it 2 stars

Lori Shits the bed is a perfect description!


Marcella Blankenship I can't agree more. Very dissapointed.


message 19: by Amy (new) - rated it 1 star

Amy Chase Well, I'm not a dude and completely agree with your review.


message 20: by Robb (last edited May 15, 2017 03:57PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Robb I loved your review! I am a dude and I am in the middle of this book and I questioning why I should like this book. I am struggling to get through it. I keep wanting something to happen. Also, I don't eat beef or pork, and I am just fine. I don't know why everyone in the book is treating this poor woman so horribly. Maybe it's a cultural thing but most of my Asian friends are vegetarian, and none of their families act this way.
I ended up finishing this and was really disappointed.


message 21: by S (new) - rated it 2 stars

S Good qualitative summary of the three parts. Totally agree.


Edward Lorn Wow. Thanks, everybody. I'd stopped reading the comments for this review and figured I'd just let it live in the wild alone. Didn't think I'd find so many kind comments upon my return. Thanks for letting me know I'm not alone in my feelings for this one. Much appreciated. :)


message 23: by Barbara (new)

Barbara Debler I am a chick. A chick who got suckered into buying this last week with the promise that I would not be able to put it down. Well, put it down I can certainly do, in multiple facets. I understand that we're reading this from multiple perspectives, some which are mental illness and others which are generally frustrated with the outcome of their existence. Regardless, I found it to be lofty in its message, extremely graphic when not necessary, and more along the lines of horror porn, at times. I kept waiting for the point that I would not be able to "put it down", but instead found myself slogging through it just to see if there would be some huge reveal or climax. Neither happened. Everyone is still melancholy...me included. I'd like a refund and to b*tchslap the B&N guy that pushed me into it. Should have known better by the title. Pfft...no one serves salad at happy hour for a reason.


Edward Lorn Shit. Sorry you had to pay for this one. I'd be mad, too. :(


message 25: by Robb (last edited May 15, 2017 04:11PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Robb Barbara wrote: "I am a chick. A chick who got suckered into buying this last week with the promise that I would not be able to put it down. Well, put it down I can certainly do, in multiple facets. I understand th..."

I agree with you. I just kept wanting something to happen. I was actually wanting the main character to die by time I finished. I am sympathetic to those that struggle with mental illness but this book was improperly titled. It should have been called " Body Dysmorphia " or " Anorexia". I felt mentally famished after I read it. If Han Kang was trying to accomplish more by using literary allegory and deep philosophical tactics to get the reader to think, then she failed. I can even empathize with how women are treated in society about their bodies and how this may represent a symbol for violence towards women but what I do feel is the author's attempt to get you to feel compassion for mind numbing plots and empty characters. I really wanted to like it and it didn't live up to the hype.


Edward Lorn I will say that I enjoyed her second translated novel, Human Acts. It was a far-superior body of work.


Celeste - Una stanza tutta per me your update is so cool. thanks, will def give this a go now! ;)


Emily Brown When someone writes a review like that, (including jokes about child molesters, keepin' it classy!!), obviously you are not the audience she is addressing. I'm going to give it a shot, as it sounds like Rashomon (google it!). Usually when people hate this hard on a book, it turns out to be excellent and is lost on the average reader. Oh yes, I'm a book snob, but I'm also a human being that doesn't use pedophilia as a methaphor in my reviews. Speaking of, have you read Lolita? My guess is this reviewer will find it


Emily Brown Dammit!! Cut off mid post! My guess is this reviewer and those that agree with him would find the abridged version too wordy and would find Nabokov's "love letter to the English language" perverse and uninteresting. I can't argue with that, but you are missing out if you don't get something as beautiful as Lolita.


Edward Lorn Maybe if you'd calm down you wouldn't prematurely post.

I'll never understand people who rage at the thought of differing opinions, but I sure as shit am not going to come into someone else's review space and bitch them out.

I hope you have a better day now that that's out of your system.


Pearce Just FYI, in an interview at dw.com Han Kang explicitly denies that the book is an allegory for Korean culture.


Edward Lorn Pearce wrote: "Just FYI, in an interview at dw.com Han Kang explicitly denies that the book is an allegory for Korean culture."

From the book jacket AND Goodreads description: "The Vegetarian is an allegorical novel about modern day South Korea..."


message 33: by Jason (new)

Jason Well, I heard from the friend of a friend's father's brother's nephew's cousin's former roommate who used to play patty cake with Kang that it is not an allergy to Korean food, and I believe that should be enough proof for all of us. Meow... AhCHOO!


Edward Lorn Well, Jason, I heard this book is about testicular odor and how to overcome it while still feeling like a manly-man!


message 35: by Jason (new)

Jason Oh. Such is my dilemma. I'd better get this and read it double quick!


Edward Lorn Good man. I knew I could count on you! ;)


Edward Lorn Paul wrote: "E.....I LOVE your brutal honesty. And I agree...seriously, this is a social site for READERS!!! You'd think they'd actually READ before commenting! Wow"

What kills me is there's more than one of these idiots who've commented. I can't roll my eyes any harder or I might pass out.


message 38: by Edward (last edited Jul 15, 2017 03:26PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Edward Lorn Paul wrote: "And I totally am with you...EVERY ONE has their om opinion and are entitled to write their review however they see fit. If you don't agree with the reviewers opinion, you have 2 choices:
1) calmly ..."


I had one lady yesterday named Patty humblebrag about her extensive audiobook collection while telling me how wrong I was to dislike the audiobook version of Hex. THEN she went on to say that it comes down to a matter of taste.

I was like, no fucking shit, dumbfuck. What's your point here? That I'm wrong or that reading is subjective??? Gahdam the morons are just knocking down the door this week.


Edward Lorn lol exactly, man. Takes all kinds...


Pearce Have you seriously never seen a book jacket blurb that's inaccurate before? The author of the book doesn't write those. Especially when the book is translated into a language the author doesn't speak. And Goodreads descriptions are taken from the book jacket. Please feel free to continue being "brutally honest" in taking your interpretation of a book from its jacket summary while disregarding what the actual writer says though.


message 41: by Edward (last edited Jul 16, 2017 02:46PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Edward Lorn Pearce wrote: "Have you seriously never seen a book jacket blurb that's inaccurate before? The author of the book doesn't write those. Especially when the book is translated into a language the author doesn't spe..."

Okay, Pearce, I'll be your Huckleberry. Let's analyze what you're accusing me of: Believing the book is an allegory for South Korea. You go on to say, "Please feel free to continue being "brutally honest" in taking your interpretation of a book"

First, the "brutal honesty" comes in the form of me not acting like a pretentious fuckstick who pretends to understand a muddled message, someone who honestly describes the shitty experience he had with this book. I never assert that the book is an allegory for SK. I actually write in the review: "Supposedly it is an allegorical study of present-day Korea, but I cannot comment on the accuracy of that statement."

I will fully admit I didn't understand this book, and I'd hazard a guess you didn't either, hence the reason you tracked down an interview in an attempt to find out, from the horse's mouth, what the fuck happened inside this bloated-ass novella. The author herself likely doesn't know what the book is about, hence the change of stories about its theme.

But wait... she doesn't actually say in the interview that it's NOT about South Korea, only that it isn't "singularly" about South Korea. Could that mean... Could that ACTUALLY mean... *gasp* Could that mean that it could still, in part, BE ABOUT SOUTH KOREA??? Holy shit, my mind is blown! ;)

I know you wanna sound smart and prove somebody on the internet wrong, but I simply don't care. The book starts off great and soon turns terrible. That's all that really matters. You being triggered over an indecisive author means dick to me.

We cool? kthxbye


Pearce Dude. You claimed in your review that the author of the book said it was an allegory for South Korea. She didn't say that, the publisher said it in a blurb. I made a comment here politely pointing this out. Your response was to update your review saying people who say the writer didn't say this can't read, made a comment here calling me an idiot, and also ran over to my own wall to castigate me there as well. If anyone here needs to chill out, it's you.


message 43: by Edward (last edited Jul 16, 2017 03:19PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Edward Lorn I was just returning the favor, my man. You came into my space to tell me I'm wrong, so I did the same. No very nice of me, was it? :)

And it's not my fault you didn't read my entire review. You got triggered, lost control, and ran down here to the comments section to prove to the bad man that he was wrong. Thing is, you weren't entirely right.

Whether the author or the publisher or some stranger on the internet wrote that blurb, I don't care. It's on the book. That dw.com article isn't something you just stumble across. And it's the only place I've found the information that you only partly get right. She doesn't say it's NOT about SK and you know she doesn't. But here you are, beating a dead horse, being a bonehead, on my review. No one asked you to spread your inaccurate information on my wall, but here you are.


Edward Lorn Also, I don't know where you get off saying you were being polite. In my experience, when someone starts a conversation with "For your information" or "FYI" they're being confrontational, or trying to express they superiority upfront.

You didn't even review the book, yet you took it upon yourself to bitch on my review. For fuck's sake, write your own review.


Pearce Okay. You win, I back down. I don't want to be responsible for you having a stroke.


Edward Lorn lol hunker down, Paul.


Pearce Well it does say in the review "the author herself has said that the book is an allegory for present day South Korea," but never mind. I'm backing down, I don't want to give you an aneurysm. You're right. I'm wrong. Sorry for commenting on your public review. Have a great rest of your life.


Edward Lorn Not a problem at all, Paul. At least you got him to shut the fuck up lol. Dense motherfucker didn't know when to stop. I would've blocked him, but he's not troll-y enough to warrant it.


Edward Lorn Pearce wrote: "Well it does say in the review "the author herself has said that the book is an allegory for present day South Korea," but never mind. I'm backing down, I don't want to give you an aneurysm. You're..."

And, again, Pearce, you're wrong. She never said it wasn't about South Korea. Only that it wasn't against South Korean society or the patriarchy. I know you wanna be right, but you're not. ;)


message 50: by Acanthea (new)

Acanthea  Grimscythe | The Ghastly Grimoire E, maybe you should add the definition of an allegory to your review? It might help lessen the confusion. 😹😹😹


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