This review is very very late. In fact I’ve reviewed so many books that I read after this that I cannot believe I forgot to write this review. So, here I am, writing this review using whatever I have left in my memory of this. Do forgive me if this is a rather bare bones sort of review. It’s been a while since I read this.
The Vegetarian is divided into three parts, each from the point of view of one person who is associated with the main character, Yeong Hye. Her Husband, Her brother in law and her long suffering sister. Yeong Hye is a regular Korean wife who sort of works from home. Her husband, who “settled” for her because she was as plain looking as he is, is perfectly pleased with the way they conduct their daily lives. They don’t have children, but that doesn’t matter since their lives are running perfectly smoothly anyway.
Then one day, Yeong Hye decided to become a vegetarian. This is something he can take for a while, he thinks she is experimenting, but it turns out she has a mental breakdown and that changes her in a lot more ways than just her diet. She forces her diet onto him whenever he is at home and he starts getting angry, losing his temper more than once and in rather uncivilised ways.
Part two features her perverted brother in law who accidentally hears something about his sister in law that makes him lust after her. This added to the fact that she is mentally unstable right now just makes for an absolute disaster. And third, her sister. I cannot go into details here because it would spoil the novel but she is just as patient as possible and suffers from feeling of guilt about not being there for her sister.
The story itself was absolutely raw and beautiful. Not beautiful in a pleasant way but in a dark and unfortunate way. The way men exert their power, always physically and psychologically, instead of just being civilised being, is showcased brilliantly in this book. No wonder it won the Booker Prize! The author masterfully takes her characters and showcases them at their worst, even worst and absolute bloody worst. (I’m not Han Kang, that’s the best way I can describe it, okay!). Right from sexual assault, desperate marriages, modern lives, familial issues and mental health, she takes everything and fits it perfectly into this tiny book and makes you want to read her next immediately. I rated this four stars, and while it wasn’t one of my favourite reads of 2016, it was damn near it.