Megan Johnson's Reviews > The Vegetarian

The Vegetarian by Han Kang
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bookshelves: general-fiction
Recommended for: international book lovers, and anyone looking for something different/memorable

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, it reads like a novella, so it's easy to consume and fast paced enough that about the time you feel really into it, it's over. It's not a bad thing though because there is a LOT packed into this little story. Despite being a story that is explicitly about Yeong-hye, it is actually never told directly from her perspective. Instead, we are give about 60 pages a piece from her husband, her brother-in-law, and her sister. The oddest part about this formatting is, unlike many book of this type, the perspectives do not overlap. Some take place at the time of Yeong-hye's decision to become a vegetarian, and others take place years after the fact.

To be totally honest, this book is weird. It might actually be the weirdest book I've ever read. But there's still something beautiful about it. It's an honest look at mental illness and how it affects not only that individual, but also everyone that cares about them. For those who have dealt with abuse, it's not as cut and dry to understand why mental illness affects them. Instead, it's about learning how to cope and manage, but also when to let go of those who hold you back.

As I mentioned before, this book is a roller coaster ride, especially in the beginning. I sat down to read this expecting to read for maybe 20 minutes later but looked at the clock an hour later and realized that I was so involved in the story that I didn't want to stop reading. It's sad, depressing, at times fun, but most of all it's probably the most thought-provoking novel I have ever read.

My rating: I give it 3 stars not because I didn't like it or I don't think you should read it, but because I found the pacing of the book to be distracting. It starts off energetic, fast-paced, and almost manic. During the middle, it takes a turn and reads more as a desperate plea for approval or attention. And in the end, it's detailed, slower, and tired. I don't know whether this was an intentional decision, but for me as a reader it meant that every 60 pages or so I was forced to feel like I was adjusting to a new writing style.

Who should read it?: If you enjoy international novels, this is an excellent choice. I have been told that those who have been deeply affected by the decision to become a vegetarian have loved this story. Or anyone who wants to read something that is so unlike anything else out there, that there is no way they will forget this book.

I was provided with a free copy of this book in order to conduct this review.





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Reading Progress

February 19, 2016 – Started Reading
February 19, 2016 – Shelved
February 20, 2016 –
page 52
27.08% "This is hands down one of the weirdest books I've read. It's really, really good, but really, really weird."
February 21, 2016 – Finished Reading
March 9, 2018 – Shelved as: general-fiction

Comments Showing 1-25 of 25 (25 new)

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message 1: by debra (new) - added it

debra Enjoyed your review. Confirmed my feeling that it was "that kind of book". Will prob readwhen I'm in "that kind" of mood. I enjoy your reviews and the way you express yourself.


message 2: by Melanie (new)

Melanie Great review Megan:-)


message 3: by P (new)

P Keep hearing about this book all the time ! It makes me want to give it a try.


message 4: by Orient (new)

Orient nice and informative ;))))))))))


Ivy Bookqueen Outstanding


My Pink Fairytales Great review. :)


message 7: by Alp (new)

Alp Great review, Megan! xx


Elyse Walters I cant get this book out of my head...
I actually think it was brilliant ...but gut wrenching...
So much to think about:
...control...( who? .. when? ...and why?)...
...Family customs - traditions - generations-
...obsessions
...violence & abuse. Morality? Boundaries?
...etc.
Your review is great!!!!

...but damn....I can't stop thinking about this book.


Michele Great review. Just finished the book, and I'm so angry at the male characters! It does seem rather disjointed, and that may be because it was originally published as three short stories.


Sassa B I'm curious: what is the least weird book you've read so far ?


Kris V Bernard Mark this with spoilers


Irina "If you enjoy international novels" - what do you mean by that? What IS an "international" novel? Every novel is about some place somewhere or other, is it not?


Megan Johnson Irina wrote: ""If you enjoy international novels" - what do you mean by that? What IS an "international" novel? Every novel is about some place somewhere or other, is it not?"

It literally won the "Man Booker International Award." Please don't make Goodreads into a place where we feel we must be nitpicky.


Jenel Kaminski This is a great review, I couldn't put my finger on how I felt about this book. You hit it perfectly.


message 15: by Johanna (new)

Johanna I really liked your review. You said what I felt.


Claudia I have this book on my desk and the library just sent a note that it's due in a couple of days. I decided to look at reviews to see if I wanted to move it to the top of my book pile -- and thanks for your review. It was very helpful and I've decided to give it a try.


Despina Legakis Great review. I just couldn't get there, hence my 2-star review. I just didn't care about the characters.


message 18: by jamix123 (new)

jamix123 Excellent review,Megan


message 19: by Chaitra (new)

Chaitra Gn I dont like it could nt read it more than few pages . its not inspiring to read. Title is vegetarian but its all like nonveg.


message 20: by Saumya (new) - added it

Saumya Dave This is a great review! I just ordered this book and can't wait to curl up with it this weekend!


Monica Johnson This book is short if the other book you're reading is The Goldfinch :)


S. Umar Pretty much agree with all you wrote.


Kathryn Liu Your description of the pacing over the course of this book was so spot on.


message 24: by Zach (new) - rated it 3 stars

Zach S A really accurate review - I felt much the same way. The first part really gripped me, but the individual pieces felt incredibly disjointed. While Part 2 was the most interesting overall story, it did nothing to advance the story told in Part 1 for me and threw the pacing wildly off. It was very well written as three individual stories, but less so as a collective for me.


message 25: by Bernie (new) - added it

Bernie Lynch spot on.


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