As soon as I finished reading this wonderful novel I had to put down my thoughts immediately. Described as a darkly beautiful novel about rebellion, eroticism and the female body, The Vegetarian tells the story of Yeong-hye who one day, after a bloody nightmarish dream about human cruelty, decides to stop eating meat. The novel is split into three sections each focused on and narrated by a different person in Yeong-hye’s life but significantly she is never given the chance to tell her own story and version of events.
In a strange way this novel reminded me of Angela Carter’s The Passion of New Eve in terms of its ethereal and fragile yet strong female heroine. Han Kang’s novel is a wonderful exploration of the frictions between passion and chilling detachment, and desires that are fed and those that are denied. What captivated me most about this novel is the disturbing questions it poses about female autonomy and the portrayal of the suffocating impact of patriarchal-structured society. This was my first time reading South Korean literature. Indeed, The Vegetarian had been one of those books I'd regularly picked up in bookshops yet never bought. I finally purchased it whilst away in Cornwall and for me it was the perfect holiday read. Kang’s beautiful writing style combined with her ability to create empathetic yet flawed protagonists makes me want to seek out more of her novels as well as to branch out and explore other South Korean literature.