The Vegetarian – A Review

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Goodreads Review: Before the nightmare, Yeong-hye and her husband lived an ordinary life. But when splintering, blood-soaked images start haunting her thoughts, Yeong-hye decides to purge her mind and renounce eating meat. In a country where societal mores are strictly obeyed, Yeong-hye’s decision to embrace a more “plant-like” existence is a shocking act of subversion. And as her passive rebellion manifests in ever more extreme and frightening forms, scandal, abuse, and estrangement begin to send Yeong-hye spiraling deep into the spaces of her fantasy. In a complete metamorphosis of both mind and body, her now dangerous endeavor will take Yeong-hye—impossibly, ecstatically, tragically—far from her once-known self altogether.

Find on Goodreads and Amazon.

Told in three parts, first my Yeong-hye’s husband, then her brother -in-law and then her sister.

I’m not really sure what to say about this book, I’ve just finished it and I’m in a bit of a daze. On one hand this book is very interesting. It’s dark and it’s evocative. The story is wild and disturbing, and also a very interesting look at mental illness. I was afraid it was going to be a disturbing book, but it wasn’t really. I was a bit disappointed in that respect.

I really wanted to hear Yeong-hye’s point of view. I wanted to know about her life, and about her thoughts before the dreams started.  She’s definitely a character that one feels for greatly. She’s misunderstood and treated brutally by her family. This book did bring up strong emotions for me. Her husband is a total asshole, marrying her not out of love but because he knew she was plain and wasn’t better than him. When Yeong-hye starts having violent and disturbing dreams that make her decide to become a vegetarian, her husband gets angry and begins to rape and abuse her. Eventually when she’s taken to a mental institution he decides to divorce her and we never hear of him again.

The second part of the story is told by the brother-in-law. A sensitive and artistic man I actually felt for him. His part of the story is sometimes confusing. He lusts after his sister-in-law.  When reading some of the reviews on Goodreads I saw that some people were upset with the brother-in-law because he took advantage of Yeong-hye. I wasn’t sure that he was taking advantage of her.  I thought it was just a strange romance.  This part ends with Yeong-hye’s sister seeing her husband in bed with her sister, the two of them covered in painted flowers.  The sister in a fit of rage commits both to a mental institution.

The third part of the story was the hardest for me to read.  I did not like the sister. While I did think she made the right choice to bring her insane sister to the mental institution,  I didn’t like the way she treated her husband.  It was very wrong of him to cheat on her, but to have him also taken away? That was a bit much.   The sister tried her best to take care of her sister, even when the whole family turned their back on Yeong-hye.  But this last part of the story was long and a bit boring.  The sister was a confused and sad woman, but somehow I couldn’t really connect with her.

In the end I gave this book three stars, it was interesting and strange and parts I did like. But it wasn’t the best book overall.   I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

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