Sunday, April 17, 2016

(2016 International Booker Prize Shortlist) "The Vegetarian" by Han Kang (South Korea)



Rating: 2 out of 3

This book has become a real fan favorite amongst readers of the 2016 International Booker Prize Longlist (and perhaps for good reason) The story is an incredibly unique look at a woman who, as a result of mental illness, unexpectedly becomes a vegetarian. The renunciation of meat, however, only marks the beginning of the woman's mental decline, which is witnessed from three different perspectives; from the point of view of her incredulous and unsympathetic husband, her awe-struck brother-in-law, and her caring and sympathetic older sister.

Now I really enjoyed the first part of the novel (the part of the story told from the perspective of the vegetarian's husband.) The last two thirds of the book, though not bad persey, were nowhere near as striking. In fact, I found the last third rather disappointing, as to me, it provided too many explanations and justifications for the vegetarian's actions, taking away (in my view, unnecessarily) a lot of the mystery that made the first part of the novel so engaging. In short, I would have liked to have used a bit of my imagination to piece together what may have led to the vegetarian's decline, rather than having had it spoon-fed to me.

Nevertheless, I am certain that this novel will be one of the top contenders for the 2016 International Booker Prize.

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