Ahoy there me mateys! For those of ye who are new to me log, a word: though this log’s focus is on sci-fi, fantasy, and young adult, this Captain does have broader reading tastes. Occasionally I will share some novels that I enjoyed that are off the charts (a non sci-fi, fantasy, or young adult novel), as it were. So today I bring ye:
the vegetarian (Han Kang)
Title: the vegetarian
Author: Han Kang
Translator: Deborah Smith
Publisher: Hogarth – The Crown Publishing Group
Publication Date: February 2, 2016 (paperback)
Source: Blogging for Books
I be a curious sort and so when I heard of Blogging for Books, I had to check it out. When looking at the books available for review, I was intrigued by the novel that won the Man Booker International Prize. Then I read the first line:
Before my wife turned vegetarian, I’d always thought of her as completely unremarkable in every way.
Sealed the deal an’ I requested it. Request granted! That first line proved to be the start of a beautifully engaging novel.
This is the story of Yeong-hye and her descent into madness. Part 1, “The Vegetarian,” is from the perspective of her husband. Part 2, “The Mongolian Mark,” is from her brother-in-law. Her sister narrates Part 3, “Flaming Trees.”
This book has been described as both “Kafkaesque” and “terrifying.” It was not terrifying to me; just sad and completely engrossing. I could see the comparison to Kafka, in the descent into madness, of course. However the blurb would have ye think that the book is filled with gory images, torture, and perversion. I found the family trying to convince Yeong-hye to eat meat to be ineffectual, if persistent.
In fact, in Yeong-hye, madness seems almost to be calm and even controlled in how it progressed. The real madness was in how the family imploded because of the circumstances. Yeong-hye lives in her own world and her struggle is internal. Real yes. But from this reader’s perspective, there is almost admiration for Yeong-hye’s choice. And perhaps that is what could be terrifying to some – that madness can almost make sense if ye overlook the initial spark of insanity.
I recommend this novel for its beautiful writing and storytelling and only hope that you are as immersed into the tale as I was.
Side note: a special thanks to Teresa Quevedo who packaged the book that was sent to me 🙂
So lastly . . .
Thank you Hogarth – The Crown Publishing Group!
The publisher’s website has this to say about the novel:
Winner of the 2016 Man Booker International Prize . . .
A beautiful, unsettling novel about rebellion and taboo, violence and eroticism, and the twisting metamorphosis of a soul
Before the nightmares began, Yeong-hye and her husband lived an ordinary, controlled life. But the dreams—invasive images of blood and brutality—torture her, driving Yeong-hye to purge her mind and renounce eating meat altogether. It’s a small act of independence, but it interrupts her marriage and sets into motion an increasingly grotesque chain of events at home. As her husband, her brother-in-law and sister each fight to reassert their control, Yeong-hye obsessively defends the choice that’s become sacred to her. Soon their attempts turn desperate, subjecting first her mind, and then her body, to ever more intrusive and perverse violations, sending Yeong-hye spiraling into a dangerous, bizarre estrangement, not only from those closest to her, but also from herself.
Celebrated by critics around the world, The Vegetarian is a darkly allegorical, Kafka-esque tale of power, obsession, and one woman’s struggle to break free from the violence both without and within her.
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I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.