The Vegetarian by Han Kang (translated by Deborah Smith)

Yeong-hye and her husband lived an ordinary life and then her dreams started. Blood soaked images began to fill her every thought, causing her to forego sleep in an effort to keep the visions at bay. In an effort to purge her mind of such disturbing thoughts, Yeong-hye denounces the idea of eating meat; going so far as to throw every morsel in the family home away.

In South Korea, societal mores are to be strictly obeyed and Yeong-hye’s decision to not eat meat is seen as shocking. Her one small act of rebellion grows and snowballs in on itself creating larger and larger waves in her extended family and causing Yeong-hye to disappear further and further in to the fantasy world she has created.

Head on over to sites like Good Reads or even Amazon and you will see numerous reviews as well as discussions over The Vegetarian. It seems that every one who reads this book takes something different away from it. While I certainly think that is a good thing, it can also make writing a review difficult. What I saw and took away from reading it might not be what another person sees.

With that, I will tell you what I saw when I read The Vegetarian.

For me, The Vegetarian is about taking control and the repercussions that can often happen. In a society such as the one that Yeong-hye lives in, there seem to be roles set out for nearly every individual. To deviate from them might be considered but the action is never carried out.

While the dreams that set Yeong-hye on her path are never fully explained, it is their effect that is felt through the rest of the pages. Her decision to restrict her diet further and further is her way of bucking the system and lashing out at the world.

The Vegetarian is a very difficult read. At times I found myself having to put the book down and walk away just from the emotions is brought up in me. Readers who have or have had an eating disorder will likely not want to read this one. All others, be mindful that this is a hard read and you might find yourself unhappy with the ending.

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