The vegetarian by Hang Kang

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This book is recommended by Paul (A Prestwich Library customer).

 “When I first picked up ‘The Vegetarian’ by Korean author Han Kang – off the new books stand at Prestwich Library one recent Saturday morning – it was out of idle curiosity; there are vegetarians in my family and I once did work for  a Korean company. I must confess I wasn’t taken initially with the plot – a young woman decides after a dream that she is a tree and therefore becomes a vegetarian. However, I thought I’d give it a go.

I have to say this is a marvellous, engrossing, moving book that I read in a weekend. I can see why it won the 2016 Man Booker International Prize. The sparse prose is sharp and descriptive, and the story told across three acts in a way that the emotions of the characters enveloped me.

The first part of the book focusses on the husband of Yeong-hye, the young and unremarkable housewife who is The Vegetarian of the title. We hear how he tries to come to terms with the change in her when she gives up meat and fish and no longer wants to conform to his cloying, deferential company-man view of life. He tries to engage the help of Yeong-hye’s family with uncomfortable results as we find out more about her father.

The second part follows Yeong-hye’s brother in law, who is portrayed as a bit of a ne’er do well, almost the opposite to the conformist husband. He is a video artist whose life is subsidised by his wife’s success as a shop manager. His is not a happy marriage, he wishes he had married the other sister. he involves Yeong-hye in the making of a film, and it seems initially that this is good for her giving some meaning to her desire to become a tree. As a reader you warm to this help and then almost want to turn away as the sub plot develops.

The final, very moving part of the book is an account centring on the visits of her sister to the hospital where Yeong-hye has been committed as the desire to become a tree affects her physical and mental health. It reflects on the mystery of her condition – which is leading her to some sort of nirvana, and the bafflement of the sister who has tried to do everything right and yet is very unhappy.

A very satisfying read, the cultural setting gives it something different, with the psychological questions it asks of the reader always keeping you engrossed as the tale develops. Recommended!” Paul.

Thank you so much Paul for this contribution. If you have been inspired to have a go at writing your own recommendation for any of the books that we hold in Bury Libraries stock, please send me an e mail to library.reader@bury.gov.uk.

Nic (The Reader Development Team)

 

 

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