‘The Vegetarian’ by Han Kang [Book Review]

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This novella has three parts: “The Vegetarian,” “Mongolian Mark,” and “Flaming Trees.”

“The Vegetarian” focuses on Yong-hye, who decides to stop eating meat after having a nightmare. Her husband finds this sudden dietary change weird and even gets mad at her for her decision. He tries to get his in-laws involved, hoping this will change his wife’s mind. But there’s no stopping his wife. She won’t eat meat ever again.

In “Mongolian Mark,” we learn what happens with Yong-hye after a violent confrontation with the entire family about her being a vegetarian. Told from the point of view of her brother-in-law, this part shows how bizarre things have become for the characters. It is when we finally realize that this story isn’t just about the major change in Yong-hye’s diet.

Finally, in “Fire Trees,” we get to know more about Yong-hye’s sister, who is another important character in the book. At this point, Yong-hye’s marriage has already been compromised. Yet, we also get a glimpse of how much she loves her sister and how she tries to stick to her till the very end. It is also where we get hints about the connection of Yong-hye’s dream to their current realities and struggles.

This book is definitely a must-read. It is quirky and thought-provoking at the same time. I especially like how it is able to tackle some important topics like patriarchy, food culture, and sexuality. It also details sharp observations on modern society, as well as the changing nature of relationships between people.

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