The Vegetarian

by Han Kang

Read time: about 3 minutes

I am guilty of getting this book due to the hype around it in the digital world. It then stayed piled amidst many other unread books, until one day there was a mildew attack and I had to empty the shelves out.

That’s how I finally read The Vegetarian at the end of 2017. It is the translated work of the Author. Read on to know what I think of this book.


The edition I have has a white wing torn off from a bird. It has the veins of the leaf as the background. The deep contrasting background strikes a great balance with the white wing. This edition by Portobello is quite wonderful; it does justice to the book.


Yeong-hye is our main protagonist. She has nightmares that compel her to give up meat. Her vegetarian lifestyle irks her family no end. Her mental balance keeps spiralling downwards pushing everyone away, including her husband. The other significant characters are her sister, and her brother in law apart from her husband.


The story revolves around the mental health of Yeong-hye. She has always been rather strange, but when she has nightmares making drawing her into a shell, she becomes all the more strange. She gives up meat- a very important part of their lives. She starts acting extremely weird causing a rising worry in her family. Her husband is caused extreme embarrassment, trouble and worry leading him away from her.

The second narrative is from the perspective of her brother in law. He is an artist, someone who has a somewhat estranged relationship with his family. He is then obsessed with a certain trait of his eccentric sister in law that changes their lives for good.

The last part is narrated by Yeong-hye’s sister. She has always been the more organised one. She tries to lead a normal life in spite of knowing how different her husband is, and she goes all the way to help her sister. The last part of the book brings the story together in a heartening way.


It is a translated book with a simple narrative. It isn’t the most amazing translation in terms of language, but the stories shines through in spite of the plain language.

Good Points

The story deals with mental illness, it is my first full blown novel on this issue and it shows the consequences of this both on the one suffering, and on her immediate family quite well. The strange plot, though seems simple and plain on the onset is layered, intriguing , graphic and makes on contemplate.

Bad Points

The language does not really elevate the story in anyway, but thankfully the plot itself is powerful enough to still shine through.


I wouldn’t exaggerate if I list this as one of my highlight reads for 2017. A new theme, a new land and a very unique plot had me hooked. It open doors to more books on mental health for me, so I’d say, this one did me more good than bad.

Whom do I recommend it to

If you do not mind disturbing details, if you are interested in understanding the myriad shades of the human mind- pick this up!

Quotable Quotes

When a person undergoes such a drastic transformation, there’s simply nothing anyone else can do but sit back and let them get on with it.

The pain feels like a hole swallowing her up, a source of intense fear and yet, at the same time, a strange, quiet peace.

Life is such a strange thing, she thinks, once she has stopped laughing. Even after certain things have happened to them, no matter how awful the experience, people still go on eating and drinking, going to the toilet and washing themselves - living, in other words. And sometimes they even laugh out loud. And they probably have these same thoughts, too, and when they do it must make them cheerlessly recall all the sadness they’d briefly managed to forget.

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Gazala Amreen

Logophile, bibliophile, writer, designer, high on wanderlust and all things pretty.

Bangalore, KA