The Vegetarian is told from three points of view: Yeong-hye's husband, her lover, and her sister. The book spans a number of years, showing Yeong-hye's first declaration of vegetarianism to an eventual, but inevitable, ending. This story isn't for the light of heart. There is some sexuality and violence sprinkled throughout the book- but everything that happens is for a reason. Every line, or action taken by a narrator, is used to explain Yeong-hye's eventual spiral into her obsession. This is literature at its finest. Once I started I couldn't stop.
The first section of the book, doesn't mention the protagonist's name almost until the end of the segment, alluding to the fact that each character involved in her life doesn't view her as her own person. To her husband she is a willing servant, complaint in everything until she won't cook or serve meat. To her lover she is something to be desired and lusted for, but never fully realized. To her sister, she's guilt personified, as Yeong-hye's actions have had, in one way or another, always impacted her own well being.
I don't want to spoil anything, but this story is so layered with thoughts on patriarchal society, individual rights, and familial bonds that it takes more than one look to get to the bottom of it. I loved this book, but I can also see how someone who is not into literary works may be turned off by it. There is a lot of vague dream dialogue, and art is used to describe some of the character's inner turmoil. The work is short at 160 pages so I was able to read it in one sitting at night. It left me feeling void and angry. It left me wondering why. Isn't that what all good books do?
I received a copy of this title from Blogging for Books for an honest review.
Although published in Korea in 2007, this book is now available in the US in paperback and hardback. It has received numerous awards including the Man Booker International Prize.