Quick Hit

The Vegetarian 
Han Kang, 2007


Pros: Critics have compared Kang’s work to Kafka, and the similarities seem deserved: taut prose, a spiraling journey into madness, and a bent towards the allegorical (okay, more than a bent) form the backbone of this can’t-put-it-down book.  Told in three parts, the narrative circles via outside perspectives around the main character’s mysterious and sudden decision to become a vegetarian in a culture where forgoing meat is not an option; as such, the narrator’s choice becomes a matter of public and familial crisis, and the story explores the horrifying consequences of her refusal to give in and return to carnivorous habits.  Kang’s decision to deprive the protagonist of a narrative voice is one of the smartest in a series of good writing choices that both immerse you in the writing and remind you that the author is in complete control; this is one of the best-crafted novels I’ve ever read, and one that makes me jealous: I wish I had written it.

Cons: Allegory may be coming back into style, but as a formal decision I’ve always found large-scale metaphor to be too on-the-nose, a little too obvious; The Vegetarian may suffer from the (perfectly-executed) simplicity of its symbolism.  A brush with melodrama in the third section left me feeling letdown, though I found sections 1 and 2 entirely thrilling.

The Verdict: Grab a copy, and (ironically, of course) enjoy a steak while you’re reading: this book makes you hungry, and completely satisfies.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s