Seemita's Reviews > The Vegetarian

The Vegetarian by Han Kang
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bookshelves: fiction, korea, drama, booker-w, art, psychology, translated, sharp_sword, thriller, toi

[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, reducing the line into a mere fissure, facilitating travel from one living form to another. So, we meet a young Yeong-hye in South Korea, a compliant wife in a patriarchal society, suddenly renouncing meat at the behest of a curious dream. A matter of grave concern, throwing not just her health into jeopardy but also her marital and filial relationships asunder, that must be assuaged before it’s too late. But a series of disturbing, echoing nightmares keep her stoic in her resolve, leaving only her sister and brother-in-law in the big, unforgiving world to extend their support, albeit not without curious pokes and starkly different motives.

What follows underline the haunting journey of a woman transformed, repealing everything conventional to assign meaning to her inner voice. Experiencing erotic exploitation and befriending helpless eyes, discarding worldly echoes and embracing floristic world, Yeong-hye moves from a home to a studio to a hospital with incredible equanimity and singular passion (view spoiler).

Intermingling three points of view in three different, well-etched parts with the eye of a shrewd player, Kang raises questions on human dichotomies and their constant collision against the inherent shackles of society. The strength of Kang’s voice is in her refusal to smoothen the rough edges of her characters – they bare their scars and innermost vulnerabilities and yet don’t appear drawing sympathy. In one of her interviews, Kang ascertains that the novel is an attempt to fight human violence and the possibility to refuse bearing it. A lingering trail formed by each part, almost akin to life that continues to throb long after it has stepped off the page, certainly adds gravitas to her objective.

This wasn’t an easy read for me, frequently veering on the bizarre and mystical, puncturing a perfect reading demeanor. But the lithe, supple body of the words came to rescue, lapping up my anxiety like an unexpected drizzle that keeps one’s soul hydrated on a trying road. The sentences, themselves, run like trimmed creepers, embracing the reader in a cocoon of adrenaline rush and propelling slowly towards the destination like an intoxication catching speed.
"Such uncanny serenity actually frightened him, making him think that perhaps this was a surface impression left behind after any amount of unspeakable viciousness had been digested, or else settled down inside her as a kind of sediment."
The destination, of course, is occasionally a misnomer, for all it does is set us onto a new journey. This book fits to that assertion like a glove.
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Reading Progress

July 14, 2016 – Started Reading
July 14, 2016 – Shelved
July 17, 2016 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-50 of 52 (52 new)


message 1: by Praj (last edited Jul 17, 2016 05:09AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Praj Poetess Seemita shines again !! I was skeptical about this book , but now I'm certainly adding it to my TBR. Thanks :)


message 2: by Dolors (new)

Dolors Heh, what did I say?
Ah yes...poetry, your words are.


Fabian {Councillor} Thumbs up for such an impressing peace of poetry!


message 4: by Jonfaith (new)

Jonfaith Bafflement is a compliment, as is your verse. It is also a gift, one of an unknown exchange rate.


Seemita Praj wrote: "Poetess Seemita shines again !! I was skeptical about this book , but now I'm certainly adding it to my TBR. Thanks :)"

Thanks buddy! :) This book should appeal to you, I think. I am going to put up an extended version of this review in a while. Perhaps that can give you a sneak peek!


Seemita Dolors wrote: "Heh, what did I say?
Ah yes...poetry, your words are."


Thanks sweets :) There is a gorgeous pendulum of lyrical weight in this book that continues to brush the reader every now and then. I am still gathering the vibrations and should put forth my humble notes soon.


Seemita Councillor wrote: "Thumbs up for such an impressing peace of poetry!"

Thank you, Fabian! This book holds many asymmetrical poems which I had a swell time putting my ears to :)


Seemita Jonfaith wrote: "Bafflement is a compliment, as is your verse. It is also a gift, one of an unknown exchange rate."

True words, Jon. It is also a riveting penumbra holding many keys to light. This one manages to find some.


message 9: by Kalliope (new)

Kalliope Brilliant is her literary quest,

...but baffled I am no longer....

That is what I have come to expect from Seemita's literary incursions.


Seemita Kalliope wrote: "Brilliant is her literary quest,

...but baffled I am no longer....

That is what I have come to expect from Seemita's literary incursions."


Aww... Very sweet, Kall! :) Thanks for the endorsement. This one was a riveting excursion, fraught with seductive language and hidden meanings.


message 11: by Ilse (new)

Ilse With just one stanza, Seemita knows how to enhance us. Awesomely done!


Seemita Ilse wrote: "With just one stanza, Seemita knows how to enhance us. Awesomely done!"

Thanks, Ilse! But I do plan to sew some more words in this little poetic thread. Kang left me a little dizzy and I am finding my ground again :)


message 13: by Sumati (new) - added it

Sumati mindblowing!! :D


message 14: by Lynne (new) - added it

Lynne King I love the poetry Seemita!


message 15: by Dolors (last edited Jul 22, 2016 05:38AM) (new)

Dolors You capture the exoticism and perturbing hues of eroticism and mute violence that I relate to Eastern literature with lyrical but firm hand, Simi. Yōko Ogawa's disquieting stories come to mind; where dreams, reality and myth blend together and lead to unforeseable results.
Still, you highlight the beauty of Yeong's transformation and replace the menace for poetry; and that Simi, is no easy feat...


·Karen· Congratulations Seemita!


Seemita Sumati wrote: "mindblowing!! :D"

Thank you, Sumati! Perhaps 'mind-boggling' is what I will use for this book ;)


Seemita Lynne wrote: "I love the poetry Seemita!"

The poetry has metamorphosed into prose, Lynne! But the story remains edge-of-the seat :) Thank you for the warm shout.


Seemita Dolors wrote: "You capture the exoticism and perturbing hues of eroticism and mute violence that I relate to Eastern literature with lyrical but firm hand, Simi. Yōko Ogawa's disquieting stories co..."

Spot-on observation, D. Mute violence is a typical hallmark of Eastern Lit, especially the Asian Lit. From whatever little I have read of Japanese, Chinese and now, Korean works, I have deduced that the streak of violence runs deep but cuts silent arcs. No one throws expletives, not many resort to physical harm but the scars appear on the psyche, clear and gutting. Kang is very deft in her handling of the central character, infusing her with colourful thoughts without hiding her persistent turmoils. That at some level, she is also able to express her opinion about the rigidity of the society at the cost of human life, is a bonus. Ah! Thank you for your endorsement, my dear :) I will read Ogawa some day.


Seemita ·Karen· wrote: "Congratulations Seemita!"

Thank you, Karen :)


message 21: by Fionnuala (new)

Fionnuala Congrats on making the books page of The Times of India, Seemita!


message 22: by Tsung (new)

Tsung Wow! You are scaling the heights with your elegant reviews Seemita. Well done!


Seemita Fionnuala wrote: "Congrats on making the books page of The Times of India, Seemita!"

Thanks, Fio! :)


Seemita Tsung Wei wrote: "Wow! You are scaling the heights with your elegant reviews Seemita. Well done!"

Thank you, Tsung :)


message 25: by Praj (new) - rated it 4 stars

Praj Congrats on your wondrous words making it to the pages of TOI !



message 26: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl I keep envisioning sentences like "trimmed creepers." Of course, you always have your way with words, dear Simi. And there's something about the evolution of a woman within a patriarchal society that makes this read intriguing also.


Gautam Great review, Seemita :) looks like an interesting read :)


message 28: by Michael (new)

Michael Thrilling review with your atmospherics. Your hints of a florisitc world and embracing creepers and cocoons has the horror feel of Inavasion of the Body Snatchers.


message 29: by Amanda (new) - added it

Amanda Excellent review, Seemita! Your beautifully written reviews are such a pleasure to read.


Nicole~ You have an exquisite way with words, and spot on about the bizarreness which also gave me pause in reading it. Congrats on the Times of India!


Seemita Praj wrote: "Congrats on your wondrous words making it to the pages of TOI !
"


Thank you, dearie! I don't know how to insert a gif here but if I could, I would have sent you a bear hug :)


Seemita Cheryl wrote: "I keep envisioning sentences like "trimmed creepers." Of course, you always have your way with words, dear Simi. And there's something about the evolution of a woman within a patriarchal society th..."

Thanks, dear Cheryl! I am a victim of my language and the chains don't hurt much. So I let them be :) But Kang's language was indeed like trimmed creepers; it was minimal, without any verbiage and was somewhat sinister in the place it was leading the reader to. I think this book just might be upto your taste.


Seemita Gautam wrote: "Great review, Seemita :) looks like an interesting read :)"

Thank you, Gautam. It is most definitely an interesting read, raising more questions than it answers, all in good faith.


Seemita Michael wrote: "Thrilling review with your atmospherics. Your hints of a florisitc world and embracing creepers and cocoons has the horror feel of Inavasion of the Body Snatchers."

Many thanks, Michael. I wasn't familiar with the movie and had to google it. And I do find similar themes between the book and the plot of the movie. Sinister, yes. Propelling, yes. There is a subtle stream of accusation in Kang's voice that imparts the story, the form of an ominous question. It is quite rigid and nags till the end, and beyond. A disturbing yet gratifying read.


Seemita Amanda wrote: "Excellent review, Seemita! Your beautifully written reviews are such a pleasure to read."

Thank you, Amanda! The pleasure is mutual :)


Seemita Nicole~ wrote: "You have an exquisite way with words, and spot on about the bizarreness which also gave me pause in reading it. Congrats on the Times of India!"

Thank you, Nicole :) You are one of my few friends on GR who has read this book and thus, I find, your words carrying weight of a different kind. Such an experience reading Yeong-hye's journey, right? I look forward to reading more of this author.


message 37: by Florencia (new)

Florencia It certainly sounds like an interesting book (your beautiful prose never fail to make any book sound rather irresistible, Seemi, but I sort of became accustomed to it :P), though I see why it wasn't an easy read for you, as it wouldn't be an easy one for me either. This is another excellent analysis of a book that I've never heard of before, which deals with grim realities that give us some food for thought, without a doubt. As usual, I feel rather strange since I'm reading a marvelous review of such an intense book, written in the most poetic way possible since that's what you bring to this site, my friend. Sheer poetry!


Seemita Florencia wrote: "It certainly sounds like an interesting book (your beautiful prose never fail to make any book sound rather irresistible, Seemi, but I sort of became accustomed to it :P), though I see why it wasn'..."

This books certainly lifted the lid off a few questions that we know must be addressed and yet ignore; perhaps out of fear, or indifference, or habit. Human Violence, Suppression, Resistance, Rebellion, Bizarre and many more themes find place in this work, which was my first brush with Korean Lit. And in a way, it was a bit saddening to know that irrespective of the societies and times, some vices keep nagging us. I suppose Kang needs to be read more. For your ever-flowing words of support and encouragement, thanks a ton, dear Flor! :)


message 39: by Ravi (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ravi Gangwani Brilliant Brilliant Brilliant ! Bravo ... Muje laga ki this is the best review by here here :) (Although all are best but this was MORE best ( I know no word exist as MORE best but still ))


message 40: by Christine (new) - added it

Christine Zibas Beautifully written, as per usual. Maybe someday you should consider a collection of these for a book? (Looking for a common link, perhaps? Really your writing is that good!)


message 41: by Deea (new)

Deea Seemita, the poetess:). I really love how you put your thoughts in words. And the following fragment is amazing:

The sentences, themselves, run like trimmed creepers, embracing the reader in a cocoon of adrenaline rush and propelling slowly towards the destination like an intoxication catching speed.


Seemita Ravi wrote: "Brilliant Brilliant Brilliant ! Bravo ... Muje laga ki this is the best review by here here :) (Although all are best but this was MORE best ( I know no word exist as MORE best but still ))"

Thanks, Ravi :) You are very generous, always. I see you have experiences Kang's experimental writing first hand and have come to be thrilled by this book as much - now, that is wonderful! She certainly was a welcome discovery for me.


Seemita Christine wrote: "Beautifully written, as per usual. Maybe someday you should consider a collection of these for a book? (Looking for a common link, perhaps? Really your writing is that good!)"

Many thanks, Christine! Your appreciation certainly plants a new seed in my mind :) Now let's see if it sees the light of the day!


Seemita Deea wrote: "Seemita, the poetess:). I really love how you put your thoughts in words. And the following fragment is amazing:

The sentences, themselves, run like trimmed creepers, embracing the reader in a coc..."


Thank you, Deea! I can't help my poetic voice, can I? An untamed little thing it is :) But I am glad it sounded good to you this time! Your endorsement brings a smile to my face, my friend.


Himanshu You make us proud, Seemita! And this is just a stepping stone I'm sure for the heights you shall scale with your words. As for the review, brilliant as ever. Just the needed peek to intrigue and lure me into this famous world of Kang's prose.


Seemita Himanshu wrote: "You make us proud, Seemita! And this is just a stepping stone I'm sure for the heights you shall scale with your words. As for the review, brilliant as ever. Just the needed peek to intrigue and lu..."

Thanks, Himanshu! If the heights are indeed scaled some day, I am sure to shout out your name from there for the nudges you have kept extending my way :) As far as Kang's prose is concerned, it will be quite an experience to indulge in, I assure you. A tingling, numbing sensation that will stick to the mind like a strange whiff; having its own say and yet listening to a quiet, undiscovered corner in you.


Maciek Great review, Seemita! And big congratulations for being published in The Times of India! :)


Seemita Maciek wrote: "Great review, Seemita! And big congratulations for being published in The Times of India! :)"

Thanks for reading and your wishes, Maciek! Much appreciated :)


Maciek It's my pleasure, Seemita! I always enjoy reading your reviews and I'm happy to see they're gaining a wider exposure. :)


Seemita Maciek wrote: "It's my pleasure, Seemita! I always enjoy reading your reviews and I'm happy to see they're gaining a wider exposure. :)"

Aww... Thanks, buddy! :)


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