Whitney Atkinson's Reviews > The Vegetarian

The Vegetarian by Han Kang
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liked it
bookshelves: read-in-2016, need-to-reread

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 the characters' motives for doing everything they did but I was never invested into them, which makes me sad because this is a book highly centered around psychological issues and female autonomy and both of those things are usually fascinating to me. If anyone felt the same way I did, what did you think was missing? I'm just not quite sure how to put into words what about this felt not amazing
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Reading Progress

July 12, 2016 – Started Reading
July 12, 2016 – Shelved
July 13, 2016 –
page 79
July 14, 2016 – Finished Reading
September 5, 2016 – Shelved as: read-in-2016
January 12, 2018 – Shelved as: need-to-reread

Comments Showing 1-15 of 15 (15 new)

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Cate (The Professional Fangirl) This is a very... strange... novel. ;)

Amerie Oooh yes, Whitney, yes! I hope you love it as much as I did (no pressure lol)! ^_^

Agnes Richard Yes...True! Even i felt the same way! And I'm still trying to figure out what exactly is the problem :(

Claire I'd say Han Kang's other book Human Acts is a lot more accessible/easy to invest in... The Vegetarian is a bit ??? because 2/3 of the narrators are awful men and like you said it reads really strangely??? But I'd definitely recommend Human Acts :)

Cate (The Professional Fangirl) ^ Yeah, I'm not 100% satisfied with the way the translation felt but I still really enjoyed it. It's so twisted!

Adira If Kang had given a solid section from Yeong- hye's point of view, I think this book would be much better. The build up and consequences of the character going "vegetarian" doesn't match the story set-up. I personally wanted the character to tell us what's so significant about the dreams that Spurs the whole transformation myself.

Ericka Seidemann I think you found the reason! I've been wondering why I just felt empty and confused after reading this. I think it was because we never hear from Yeong-hye. The whole Tree Metaphor was a little lost on me too - could have used more backstory and more perspective on that. Thanks for your review. I feel less alone since everyone is raving about this book.

message 8: by Mel (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mel I am only about 60% of the way through but I think I understand. I am feeling a kind of disconnect to the story so far because I'm reading about a woman dealing with mental health and feminine issues but I'm hearing it all from men who see her body as a commodity and it's just creating that disconnect for me.

Lesley Moseley I think I empathized with the older sister almost too much. Different countries of origin, but amazingly similar ' societal rules and expectations; guilt and the guilt of RELIEF..

message 10: by Claire (new) - added it


message 11: by Tina (new) - rated it 3 stars

Tina Completely agree with your review. I didn't give myself 24 hours to rate but stuck with 3 stars. It's a good novel, but it's lacking something I can't put my finger on, perhaps one likable character.

Ellie I think the fact that we never see the story entirely through Yeong-hye is part of the point. The author said she wanted explore the idea that we can never know another person, along with themes of true innocence and violence. The fact that we see a woman slowly being broken down from three people who do not understand her or each other brings a sense of isolation. and we ourselves are left not know ing her.

Lesley Moseley Ellie wrote: "I think the fact that we never see the story entirely through Yeong-hye is part of the point. The author said she wanted explore the idea that we can never know another person, along with themes of..."

I find I don't need to like anybody, as long as their character rings true.

April I agree. Well written, but...off. I wish we'd gotten more insight (as in the end) at the start...
The three parts are too distinct. If I wasn't reading it for a book group I wouln't have got past the first 30 pages. I actively disliked the first part, at that point I didn't feel as if I knew the character. The second part was a little more interesting, but the ideas were never explored ( such as the Mongolian Mark sounded like it almost could be used for photosynthesis. That could've given the title a whole new meaning. I did enjoy the third part, but it seemed like a beginning that was never finished. It is VERY rare for me to dislike a book. Usually even if I don't care for it I keep reading because I care about the character, but this character was not developed until the 3rd part. Interesting ideas about the human condition. Not even sure how to categorize this book.

Alicia Farmer same

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