Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~'s Reviews > The Vegetarian

The Vegetarian by Han Kang
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did not like it
bookshelves: 1-star, audiobook, year-2017


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 characters was consistently annoying.

And maybe that was the point, I don't know.

Maybe I was supposed to feel irritated throughout the whole novel?

Maybe the outright objectification of both women by every single male they come into contact with was supposed to speak to societal expectations between men & women?

Maybe the lack of agency both women seem to have was supposed to encompass widespread lack of agency among women in general?

Maybe all the weird, sexually graphic imagery was a parallel for the mass produced & detached quality of the porn industry?

Maybe my lack of experience with the culture prevents me from understanding the higher meaning here?

Truly, I don't know.

Regardless of the intended message, or what others seem to have taken from this novel, reading this was frustrating. I don't think the method of delivery worked for me. You win some, you lose some, I guess.
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Reading Progress

November 30, 2016 – Shelved
November 30, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read
August 22, 2017 – Started Reading
August 25, 2017 –
76.0% "ಠ_ಠ This is weird."
August 25, 2017 – Shelved as: 1-star
August 25, 2017 – Shelved as: year-2017
August 25, 2017 – Shelved as: audiobook
August 25, 2017 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-47 of 47 (47 new)

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Carol (Bookaria) This was a NOPE for me too but I gave it 3 stars because it was well written but in full honesty my feelings say it's a 2*

Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~ Carol I sort of wavered and thought maybe I should give it a 2 because I agree it was well written & probably achieved whatever the author set out to achieve but then I was like nah lol

message 3: by Liam (new)

Liam Degnan This has been my experience with a lot of books, honestly. People try to portray something that is inherently negative in a book as a means of "making a point" about the topic, but in the end all they do turn the issue into a source of entertainment for the masses.

Not a fan.

message 4: by Liam (new)

Liam Degnan Great review though =]. Even though the book sucked haha.

Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~ Haha thank you Liam! I know what you mean, in fact that's a really good way to say it. The negative portrayals in this book could not rise above themselves to mean anything more significant, and thus it just felt like graphic, sexually disturbing scenes for the sake of graphic, sexually disturbing scenes.

Louise This is on my to read list... will probably take me ages to get round to reading it though !!

Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~ Louise I only read this at the prompting of a friend - plus I like to push myself to read outside my box every so often, but unfortunately this one just didn't do it for me! Hope you enjoy it more!

message 8: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Joint Ouch, I hope you enjoy your next one much more. Think I'll pass on this one.

Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~ Thank you Sarah! Gosh I hope so too & good choice my dear 😉

Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~ Hahaha Craig it was hella strange! But very short so don't think too much of me 😅😂

Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~ lol you're too kind! ☺️

message 12: by Caleb (new)

Caleb M. Thanks for reading this so that way I never will :)

Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~ Awh you're so welcome Caleb 😂 but remember I'm petty so you may love it 😂😂😂

message 14: by Kainat (new)

Kainat 《HUFFLEPUFF & PROUD》 My question is why it's called "the vegetarian"?

Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~ Lol one of the sisters has dreams that cause the idea of eating meat to be repulsive to her.

message 16: by Sara (new)

Sara I guess I'll take this off my to-read list. That sounds like everything I dislike in one book. Thanks for throwing yourself on that grenade for us!

Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~ Haha Sara it really didn't work for me but I've seen some of my friends really enjoying it? But either way you're welcome haha!

message 18: by N.N. (new)

N.N. Light Great review, Mary!

Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~ Thank you N.N.!

message 20: by N.N. (last edited Aug 26, 2017 07:08AM) (new)

N.N. Light I really enjoyed it. I've heard such great things about this book but now that I've read your review, I think I'll pass. lol! MRS N

message 21: by Caleb (new)

Caleb M. @Mary hahahahahaha Yeah, very true, but I'm gonna trust you on this one. For some reason I think petty left you on page 10 of this book and irritation set in for how awful it was.

message 22: by Morgannah (new)

Morgannah Thank you Mary, you just saved me from reading this one!

Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~ N.N. it's very possible you'll get something from this novel that I didn't! But it definitely didn't speak to me the way it's spoken to others haha.

Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~ Caleb that is literally what happened lololol

Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~ lol you're welcome Morgannah! :)

Nenia ⭐ Literary Garbage Can ⭐ Campbell Also, were you frustrated that her dream was never actually described in detail?

Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~ Definitely Nenia! I honestly wouldn't have know what the fuck was even happening with it if it had not been touched on in the blurb. Like maybe it was just meant to be random disturbing imagery but I was frustrated with a lot about this novel lol.

message 28: by Martine (last edited Aug 28, 2017 10:33AM) (new) - added it

Martine Carlsson Good warning. I totally dislike misandric books. That's one of the reasons I hated Handmaid's tale. I would have read the Vegetarian for its unconventional plot and the curiosity to read an Asian novel.

Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~ Martine! The message itself isn't misandric, in fact I think it was supposed to be the opposite. But I just reeeeealllllyyyyy didn't get it lol

message 30: by Martine (new) - added it

Martine Carlsson Lol! So you tell me that you found it misandric but that it tried to say the opposite :D That's weird, for the least. Now I don't know if I should read it or not. Well, I have a gigantic list of "to read" already.

Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~ Nooooo I never said it was misandric! I said the method through which it delivered its message didn't work for me. There was a lot of abuse & strangeness going on but I never got the impression that the narrative condoned that behavior. That being said I'm not sure what the narrative really meant to express with the overall story, hence my confused stabbing in the dark at what the message was supposed to be lol.

message 32: by Martine (new) - added it

Martine Carlsson So it may still be an interesting read but it's open to interpretation. I guess there can be some cultural misjudgement as well. I know nothing about korean culture. :)

Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~ Same here! So yea I definitely might be missing something that's a bit more obvious for others but I wasn't feeling it haha!

Frank Just finished this book and loved your review. Many of the thoughts and questions you raised went through my mind as well.
From the start I knew it would be difficult to get this book: Korean culture is too unfamiliar. I get the feeling they are quite different from their neighbours as well, so acquaintance with Chinese or Japanese writers is no guide either. (I'm disappointed not to find any obviously Korean reviewers here on GR, too). So, in part an unsatisfying experience. The best I am hoping for is that it may make sense for me one day, after having collected new experiences.

Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~ Thank you so much Frank! I completely agree with you I have no knowledge of Korean culture and so I feel like there are definitely things I did not understand but when without that fundamental knowledge I just really didn't enjoy the story or the method of delivery. I'm sure this is a nice story for others but I just couldn't get on board no matter how hard I tried. That is a very optimistic outlook tho I hope the same becomes true for me!

Sarah I think it was about whether living is ethical... to live you have to eat, and to eat you have to kill... I thought it got at some pretty deep stuff.
I think the women did take agency, but not in positive ways... the main girl by choosing to be vegetarian and not give in to society (and sleep with her sister's husband), and her sister by abandoning her son at the end.

Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~ I'm glad you got more from it Sarah! ☺️

message 38: by Nikki (new) - rated it 1 star

Nikki Thanks for such an honest review! I also finished this book feeling confused and frustrated. And after reading so many 5 star reviews, I started wondering if I didn't think deep enough about the context. I also thought that the audio version may have tainted my overall view (as I hated the narrator). I'm still thinking to re-read in the future, but for now it's a NOPE for me too!

Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~ Haha thank you Nikki!! I agree I didn't care much for the narrator myself. But I think I'm gonna probably just give up on whatever I was supposed to take from this 😂 I just don't have the patience but I'm glad to see so many others love it!

message 40: by TS (last edited Feb 26, 2018 11:23PM) (new)

TS Chan 😧 When did you read this strange book? Great review in any case.

Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~ Hahah TS! That emoji is the perfect mix of distress and sadness which is exactly how I felt reading this 😂 it was around August of last year!! Thank you my love! 💕🤗

message 42: by Linda (new) - rated it 1 star

Linda Crow If a reader wants to explore dark themes without any redemptive outcomes, this is the book.

Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~ Completely agree Linda!!

message 44: by Mel (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mel I totally get that it's not a book to 'like'. I read it for my studies at university and I think that's why I connected with it on another level. It's a disturbing story, but one I am glad that I read... If that makes sense.

Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~ I get you Mel! Honestly if I read this in a university setting where I was made to think about it, dissect it, and hear others' opinions on the themes and messages I may well could've connected better as well. But recreationally this was a misstep for me lol. Glad you got something from it though, friend!

Andreia ♡The Butterfly Lover♡ even though I am a vegetarian and got curious about this one, your review was EXCELLENT for me because, seriously, more repulsive and selfish men??!! NO !! NOT this year!! I have had enough!

Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~ Hahaha Andreia I totally feel you! Thank you so much for the sweet words, I hope your next read has no repulsive, selfish men to speak of! 💕

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