The Vegetarian, by Han Kang- Group Read

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The Vegetarian, by Han Kang- Group Read

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1LovingLit
Modificato: Gen 8, 2017, 9:27pm



Me and Berly (Kim) are going to read The Vegetarian, by Han Kang together. By all accounts an interesting book, one which had some LT buzz last year. Join us- we start at some point in the next week, probably.
Come one, come all!

It has won accolades :)
Man Booker International Prize Shortlist (2016)
New York Times Best Books of the Year (2016)
New York Times Notable Book of the Year (2016)

2LovingLit
Gen 8, 2017, 9:29pm

I have the edition on the left hand side, and find it gorgeous to look at. My copy was purchased in Wellington, at Unity Books, where I spent an hour or two with my mum and sister when we were visiting the capital to celebrate my mum's significanth birthday last year ;)

3drneutron
Gen 8, 2017, 9:38pm

I've added this thread to the group wiki. I hope it goes well!

4LovingLit
Gen 9, 2017, 12:01am

>3 drneutron: I knew you were going to say that....the first part anyhow :)
Thanks!

5Berly
Gen 9, 2017, 1:37am

I have the middle cover. Should be able to start Tuesday/Wednesday. : )

Thanks Megan and Dr N!

6amanda4242
Gen 9, 2017, 7:11pm

I just picked up a copy from the library, so I'm in.

7LovingLit
Gen 10, 2017, 2:21am

>6 amanda4242: great! Watch this space for when we need to assemble at the starting line ;)

8amanda4242
Gen 10, 2017, 3:09am

>7 LovingLit: I'm afraid I've jumped the gun and may have already finished it...in my defense, the book is short and it's been raining off and on all day.

9mahsdad
Gen 10, 2017, 10:32am

I got this as an ER book and finished it last month. I'm going to lurk for a bit and throw my 2 cents in when you are all done.

Very interesting book.

10SqueakyChu
Gen 10, 2017, 12:11pm

I read this book last year when it first came out as a nearly Reviewer. I thought the book was fascinating! I'll be lurking here as well to see the remarks you make about it.

11klarusu
Modificato: Gen 10, 2017, 12:19pm

Fortuitously, this is one I'm partway through at the moment so I'll definitely come back and discuss when everyone's done.

12LovingLit
Gen 11, 2017, 12:10am

Ha ha!
I will start tomorrow, which translates to approximately 14 hours. I intend to finish The Rehearsal tonight, and in the morning start The Vegetarian!

13Berly
Gen 11, 2017, 3:03am

Snow day again! School is cancelled. I am in to start tomorrow. : )

14Berly
Gen 11, 2017, 1:43pm

The first few pages describe the most loveless marriage ever! I think my mouth was actually hanging open as I read it.

15LovingLit
Gen 11, 2017, 5:29pm

I have read the first 50 pages or so, the whole first section. Wow.
I am loving it so far. It is shocking and just keeps getting more so!!! I have no idea what the second section holds, but by the title of that it could be a different story altogether.

16Berly
Gen 11, 2017, 6:16pm

Section 1 The Vegetarian

I think that the husband's utter lack of true love for his wife is the only thing that keeps her descent into madness from being a heart breaker. Instead it is shocking, with an almost humorous twist. And what is the big deal with all the nipple talk? She is not a sexual being. HE is not! So what does it mean? The lack of veneer, the refusal to hide, and bind who we are?

17LovingLit
Gen 11, 2017, 6:19pm

>16 Berly: I liked how there was some sort of reference from herself, about the feeling of something pressing her from the inside, affecting her solar plexus, which made her not want to wear a bra. I reckon the no-bra-wearing and the solar plexus reference are all tied to the meat aversion.

18LovingLit
Gen 12, 2017, 3:12pm

Finished the second section.
Interesting! As soon as that section started from the pov of a different character, I was thinking, oh no. Now I have to get used to a different voice, but, it seems to flow well from one to the next. And the section is just as riveting as the first.
Still loving it.

19amanda4242
Gen 12, 2017, 4:33pm

I wasn't really blown away by The Vegetarian. It wasn't bad, but I could see where things were leading very early in each section so I always had the disconcerting feeling of being fifty pages ahead of the characters.

Did the first section remind anyone else of Bartleby, the Scrivener? I kept having flashbacks to my American lit class as I was reading it.

20Berly
Gen 13, 2017, 11:47am

>19 amanda4242: It's just very strange reading about these people who become so obsessed about something after 1) a dream and 2) a birthmark.

Oh, good call on Bartleby! I haven't read that one since high school. But his constant reply of "I would prefer not to." and lack of affect are spot on for Yeong-hye.

In section two, Mongolian Mark, this line caught my eye: "She's a good woman, he thought. The kind of woman whose goodness is oppressive."

21LovingLit
Gen 13, 2017, 2:32pm

>19 amanda4242: I'm not able to see what is coming, I don't usually try to figure out what might happen in a story. Now that you say that though, I am wondering about the ending.....my guess for the vegetarian is that she dies, maybe by wandering off happily by herself (again). I kind of want her to have some sense of freedom from her inner turmoil.

22LovingLit
Gen 13, 2017, 3:25pm

Also....the book gives so much, for so few words. I admire it for the sense of personality I am getting from each of the characters.

23klarusu
Modificato: Gen 13, 2017, 4:09pm

I'm a dissenter, I'm afraid. This book really did very little for me. I 'spoilered' this because I don't want to be negative and take anything away from anyone else's experience. I didn't find the characters had anything to give me - I disliked all of them intently and didn't find them nuanced really, more that they were simply constructs for the author to hang the prose on.

The contradiction is that I still thought it was a very good book, in its way, once you accept the limitation in characterisation the author's narrative choice of brute effect and shock value over believability and nuance brings. It was obviously a conscious choice to write more surreal vehicles for effect rather than characters more grounded in reality. In that context, I think it fitted well with the slightly darkly fantastical nature of the prose.


It was obviously not the book for me right now but that doesn't make it a bad book at all. A weird one I'd give 5 stars to and then explain why I hated it.

24LovingLit
Gen 13, 2017, 6:02pm

He he, almost a direct opposit of how I feel about the book, writing and characters!
I feel like they are realistic characters, ones that I understand the motivations of. Even if I can't relate to them all that well.

25klarusu
Gen 13, 2017, 6:13pm

>24 LovingLit: It's really funny, isn't it. I can see how good it is on many levels but I just can't like it. I just really wonder whether I'm not in the right reading 'place' for it right now.

26LovingLit
Gen 13, 2017, 6:17pm

I do love the idea of awarding 5 stars to a book and then going into a lengthy disclaimer. Those books are weird indeed to place....

27LovingLit
Modificato: Gen 14, 2017, 3:59am

Finished it, gave it the old treatment.
Loved it, could only fault it for not being long enough, and for the ending being rather abrupt. The ending I wanted to see was the sister breaking her out of the psychiatric institution and taking her somewhere peaceful to die knowing she had the love of someone. But that didn't happen.
Nevertheless, I was very impressed by this book, and by this author. I want more!

Edited to add.....I am away on holiday from tomorrow, so don't be alarmed if I don't post more here....I will read and comment if I can, and I can't wait to see what other people think of it!

28klarusu
Modificato: Gen 14, 2017, 5:30am

The third narrative perspective was the one that made the book for me. Her sister's view completed the circle of understanding, I think. Finally getting an insight into the family dynamic from childhood gave it more depth. It was a bleak and abrupt ending though with no sense of hope for the sister's future.

29LovingLit
Gen 14, 2017, 2:34pm

>28 klarusu: I wondered if the story wasn't going to all of a sudden launch into some sort of fantasy situation in the third section. I imagined that walk the sisters had gone on together as children, and got lost on, and how that might have been the scene of the death of one of them, and that the lives they played out since were some kind of compensatory actions by the surviving one to cope.
It was a fleeting thought, seeming all the more ridiculous by me writing it down. :)

30Berly
Gen 15, 2017, 4:07pm

Fascinating book. I found the story being told in three parts from the perspective of the husband, the brother-in-law and finally the sister effective and satisfying.

I didn't like the book because:

1) I wasn't enamored of any of the main characters.
2) The sexuality in the book was stronger than I was expecting.
3) There is abuse, although not detailed (thank goodness).
4) Some of the characters have the strangest obsessions.
5) The ending didn't go where I wanted it to.


But far outweighing that...

1) I couldn't put it down.
2) It was an excellent descent into madness.
3) The writing was beautiful.
4) It starkly captured the imperfection of some marriage relationships.
4) It is a book I will never forget.

So, what do I rate it? 4.5! I will look of more by this author.

My favorite lines:

"He was becoming divided against himself. Was he a normal human being? More than that, a moral human being? A strong human being, able to control his own impulses? In the end, he found himself unable to claim with any certainly that he knew the answers to these questions, though he'd been so sure before."

"She's a good woman, he thought. The kind of woman whose goodness is oppressive."

"I don't know you," she muttered, tightening her grip on the receiver, which she'd hung back in the cradle but was still clutching. "So there's no need for us to forgive each other. Because I don't know you."

I agree >28 klarusu: that the third section completed this book for. And I also was hoping, like Megan, that in the end she would take her sister somewhere to let her die in peace and dignity, perhaps out in the forest.

Truly a memorable book for me.

31Cynfelyn
Gen 15, 2018, 9:22am

An interesting spat relating to the English translation of this book:

Deborah Smith, 'What we talk about when we talk about translation' (Los Angeles Review of Books, 2018-01-11)
https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/what-we-talk-about-when-we-talk-about-transl...

Claire Armitstead, 'Lost in (mis)translation? English take on Korean novel has critics up in arms' (Guardian, 2018-01-15)
https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2018/jan/15/lost-in-mistranslation-e...