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The Vegetarian
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Group Reads > The Vegetarian group discussion (October '16)

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message 1: by Alexa (new) - added it

Alexa (AlexaNC) | 1256 comments Mod
Welcome to the discussion of The Vegetarian by Han Kang, translated from Korean, and the winner of the Man Booker International Prize for 2016.

message 2: by Viv (new) - rated it 5 stars

Viv JM | 97 comments I read this a few months back with another group. I thought it was pretty amazing. It's definitely a very unsettling book. I'll look forward to following the discussion and hopefully joining in, as long as I can remember stuff (I have loaned my copy to my neighbour!)

message 3: by Kay (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kay I read this over the summer (I wonder if we are in the same group, Viv :) but still think about this book. I completely disagree with the general description that this is a book about a woman becoming a vegetarian. Yes, it starts with that, but that is not what the book is even remotely about. I am not going to give away anything else, and am really looking forward to discussing this with this group.

Amanda (tnbooklover) I have a copy and will be joining in mid month. Really looking forward to this one.

Maria Hill AKA MH Books (mariahilldublin) I got a copy of this today but need to finish Thien's Do Not Say we Have Nothing, so I should be starting mid month too. Looking forward to it - if that is the right thing to say about this particular book!

message 6: by Alexa (new) - added it

Alexa (AlexaNC) | 1256 comments Mod
I've tried my best to keep my knowledge of this as minimal as possible - so as to come to it as a blank slate - but it's been tricky with all sorts of people raving about it!

I'll probably start it next week. I hope everyone lets us know when they start!

Miri | 22 comments I read this a few months ago and loved it! It seems silly to read it again so soon, but I almost want to.

message 8: by Alexa (new) - added it

Alexa (AlexaNC) | 1256 comments Mod
Yes, sometimes the most wonderful books just cry out to be reread again immediately! I find if I wait too long between re-readings, then I come to it fresh again, which has its benefits, but if I reread again immediately, then I see all sorts of nuances that one needs to be familiar with the work to notice.

Maria Hill AKA MH Books (mariahilldublin) I am starting this at last. Looking forward to it. A lot of my friends on Goodreads have highly recommended it as a book to experience. Anybody else starting soon?

Nicole I haven't been able to participate in group reads and discussions for a while, but I'm hoping to get more into it again. I just finished this book and it seems like I'm the only one so far that didn't particularly enjoy it. It was definitely unsettling and stirred up feelings for the characters, but overall I just didn't really like it. I also agree that it's really misleading to hear the book described only as a woman becoming a vegetarian. Can't wait to hear what everyone else thinks of this one!

Maria Hill AKA MH Books (mariahilldublin) I'm nearly finished, found it very disturbing, especially part 1. The scene at the end of part 1 when she is holding the bird (I won't spoil this) has not left me, neither has the coldness of her family and husband and that horrible scene at her sister's apartment. Why is her family apologising to her husband for her behaviour without asking her first? I understand that there may be South Korean family values here but it seems a little extreme. For such a short book that I haven't finished yet, the list goes on.

I understood it would be unsettling and graphic before I read it, from a friends review on Goodreads, so the overall theme of the book being far more than one woman's decision to become a vegetarian was not a surprise.

Overall I suspect that I am going to give this book 5 stars, but have lined up lots of light reading of adventure stories to drive some of the images and thoughts out.

message 12: by Alexa (new) - added it

Alexa (AlexaNC) | 1256 comments Mod
I just started this. I hated the narrator from the very first paragraph, and only find myself despising him more and more. This is a very unsettling way to be approaching a book. I want to see what happens, but seeing things through his eyes is disgusting me!

Gargi (gargisharma) I finished reading the book last week, and honestly I wasn't very impressed. I like the idea of the book, but the form and narration of the book didn't do it for me. Maybe something was lost in translation, or the simple fact that the voice of the book changes thrice - every sixty pages.

Maria Hill AKA MH Books (mariahilldublin) I would have to agree that the narrator for section 1 was the most hateful of the three. I just could not get my head around how cold and uncaring he was, without even mentioning some of his actions.

My copy of the books says the three sections were originally published seperately as three novellas before being printed as a book. I quite like that the story was told from the perspective of three narrators. I was wondering about the Sister and was glad that she got her say in the end.

message 15: by Viv (new) - rated it 5 stars

Viv JM | 97 comments I think it makes more sense when you consider it as three separate parts. I thought that having the different narrators added, rather than detracted, from the impact of the book. I'm not sure which narrator was most hateful - the husband or the brother-in-law! In some ways I found the brother-in-law worse because (view spoiler).

message 16: by Kay (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kay For me, having the story from 3 different perspectives was the strongest - (view spoiler) Also, I read an interview with Kang somewhere/or listened to one, and she was very specific about the cultural patriarchy of Koreans, which I thought tied very well with the story, without being the center of the story.

message 17: by Alexa (new) - added it

Alexa (AlexaNC) | 1256 comments Mod
Careful, this has spoilers for Part 1!

I've only just finished Part 1. I did know in advance that this started as three separate stories, so I was somewhat prepared for some dislocation. I did peek ahead to just get a sense of how connected part 2 would be, and saw that it appears to be from the POV of the first narrator's brother-in-law. I could see though, if one was expecting a coherent novel, that the change could be surprising.

Wow, part 1 was something! The hate, the misery, the anger. And then the rest of her family was almost as bad as her husband. To me it seemed clear that her entire motivation was based on her attempt to keep from murdering her husband. Is that how others saw it?

message 18: by Alexa (new) - added it

Alexa (AlexaNC) | 1256 comments Mod
I see this as being meant to be read on two levels. (Again, these are just my reactions from Part 1.) First, quite literally, as a story about a woman feeling overwhelmingly constricted and downright murderous by her life in a confining patriarchy, and secondly, metaphorically, about the same issues. So her family is horrific, yes, but they also stand for all the ways people (and particularly women) can be stifled by uncaring, unloving strictures. Not only are they supposed to fall in line (to recognize the moral authority of her husband's boss' wife) they are supposed to do so with modest demureness.

Nicole Ugh, yeah I could not stand the first narrator-- he was horrible! I went into the book knowing almost nothing about it, so the change in narrators confused me at first. However, I did end up liking the change, especially because I could not stand her husband anymore! (Although, the second narrator doesn't end up being much better...)

message 20: by Alexa (new) - added it

Alexa (AlexaNC) | 1256 comments Mod
In a sense this takes the idea of an "unreliable narrator" to an entirely new level. I can't think of anywhere else where I've been forced to view the world through such despicable eyes.

(I only knew that in advance because I noticed on the copyright page it says: "Originally published in Korean as three separate novelettes and then compiled into a novel.")

Vanessa | 11 comments I kept expecting it to really bother me more that there wasn't a section from Yeong-hye's perspective. In a different novel, I think I would have gotten hung up on thinking that the novel needed something to balence out the sections of other people projecting their thoughts onto her. Yeong-hye was such a big presence that I always had part of my focus on her. In the glimpses we were given into her mind, I felt like Yeong-hye shared everything that she needed to for the reader to understand her.

The theme of innocence in the novel really spoke to me. I want to skim through it again to reread some sections, because I was reading too fast to take notes.

Amanda (tnbooklover) I just finished part 1. Wow this is extremely disturbing. Is this supposed to be present day? Are reactions to vegetarians really that strong in Korea today? I didn't hate the husband as much as some of you seemed to. I felt a bit sorry for him it was the father I hated.


message 23: by Alexa (new) - added it

Alexa (AlexaNC) | 1256 comments Mod
That's kind of why I see the book as being somewhat metaphorical.

Maria Hill AKA MH Books (mariahilldublin) It's fairly contemporary considering that the Brother in Law makes
video installations as part of his art work.

I will need to reread this in the future some time to see what more there is to it.

Saray | 2 comments I finished reading this yesteday, and I can't stop thinking about it. The only thing that bothered me were all the anorexia desctiptions in the last part, but it's just something that always makes me nervous while reading :/

I loved the writing though, and I thought Yeong-hye's sister was a fenomenal charachter.

message 26: by Miri (new) - rated it 5 stars

Miri | 22 comments Alexa wrote: "Careful, this has spoilers for Part 1!

. . . To me it seemed clear that her entire motivation was based on her attempt to keep from murdering her husband. Is that how others saw it? "

I actually don't remember seeing it that specifically, Alexa, but now that you say it, I agree.

I did really dislike the husband, but I don't remember feeling strongly about the brother-in-law. I was so glad the last section came from her sister's perspective; it was so intimate, and she was the only one of the narrators I cared about as much as I cared about Yeong-hye.

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