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January 2017: Foreign Literature > The Vegetarian - Han Kang - 4 stars

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message 1: by Kristel (new)

Kristel (kristelh) | 699 comments The Vegetarian by Han Kang, published in 2007 and translated to English from Korean by Deborah Smith 2015. The book is made up of three short stories that the author merged together. The first part, Vegetarian, is written from the husband's POV and some of the wife's thoughts appear in italics. The second book, Mongolian Mark is from the brother-in-law's perspective and the final section, Flaming Trees, is from the older sister's perspective. This is a book that feels violent, there is a lot of blood. The color red is a symbol or motif. The book deals with individuals trying to understand those around them. It really is not about vegetarianism but about a person who has renounced life. It is about mental illness but it is also about more than mental illness. The author, Han Kang talked to the Literary Hub, where she claimed that The Vegetarian is novel with many layers. She said that "questioning human violence and the (im)possibility of innocence; defining sanity and madness; the (im)possibility of understanding others, body as the last refuge or the last determination" were some of the themes addressed. (see wikipedia) Two sisters, both Korean, both raised to please, one is the older and the other a middle child. One chooses to live, one chooses to renounce life".

Some quotes; "it was the quiet tone of a person who didn't belong anywhere, someone who had passed into a border area between states of being."
"what she had renounced was the very life that her body represented".
"her eyes would seem to reflect a kind of violence that could not simply be dismissed as passivity or idiocy or indifference, and which she would appear to be struggling to suppress."
"her hands wrapped around the mug, shoulders hunched like a baby chick trying to get warm". This last quote I like because of the imagery.

The Vegetarian won the 2016 Man Booker International Prize. It is described as a book of beauty and horror. It is an uncomfortable read, thank goodness it is short.


message 2: by Tracy (new)

Tracy (tstan) | 1218 comments It was an uncomfortable read, but I thought there was a lot of skillful writing and fascinating layers. I think this is one that deserves two reads, at least 2 years apart- to see how the reader's perspective changes. I think it would be a fantastic book club read.


message 3: by Booknblues (new)

Booknblues | 6477 comments This has been on my radar, and your review makes me think I should read it.


message 4: by Joi (new)

Joi (missjoious) | 3830 comments Really want to get to this one soon!


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