When I bought this book last month, it was purely based on the fact that I was sucked in because of the beautiful cover. It was one of two choices that I had selected (one being a piece of Japanese fiction) from a table of books by ‘Eastern Writers’. I’d never heard of Han Kang prior to seeing the book and thought that it intrigued me enough to pick it up.
The back cover is littered with praise for the book and the only visible blurb is,
“A beautiful, unsettling novel in three acts, about rebellion and taboo, violence and eroticism, and the twisting metamorphosis of a soul.”
The story is told from three different perspectives (acts) about the way in which the decision to become a vegetarian has affected the lives of all around. Yeong-hye and her husband are ‘ordinary’ people whose lives are turned upside down by her decision to become vegetarian and observe a plant-based diet and lifestyle. What was really interesting to read was not the predictable moral arguments for not eating meat, but how her physical and mental health dramatically changed, as well as her relationship with her family.
The first act is told from the perspective of Yeong-hye’s husband, the second from her brother in law’s (her sister’s husband) point of view and the final act is from her sister In-hye’s perspective.Curiously, the story was initially published as three separate novelettes and then eventually combined as one story.
There are some really disturbing scenes of violence, some erotically charged moments and beautiful descriptions of Yeong-hye’s struggles with her mental health. (I’m not sure if ‘beautiful’ is a politically-correct term to use to describe mental health) Ultimately, all she wants is to become closer to nature and to become a tree.
Surreal, sadly beautiful, thought provoking.
It’s not a book for everyone. It is strange. But if you want to read something a little different, I would give it a try. I think I might have to re-read this…
Have you read about any of Han Kang’s books?
Till next post,