Cuppa Tea Book Club: The Vegetarian by Han Kang

When a friend first recommended I read The Vegetarian, I thought, “Wow. What a terrible title.” But I trust my friend’s taste in books, and this did win several literary prizes, including the Man Booker International Prize, so I gave it a shot.

While the title suggested to me a bland story with didactic arguments for vegetarianism, I was happily proven wrong once I started reading. Han Kang’s novella is comprised of three connected short stories, told in the perspective of the husband, brother-in-law, and sister of the titular character. Yeong-hye is a housewife whose decision to suddenly stop eating meat derails the lives of her family members.

The novella is weird and surreal, like a spellbinding nightmare. With concise, matter-of-fact prose, it’s a page-turner, and I read it in only a couple of days. If you like books by Haruki Murakami and Banana Yoshimoto, this has a similar tone, but a bit more disturbing. I won’t reveal more, but I’m sure anyone who reads it to the end will want to discuss it with a friend.

I’m a big fan of South Korean pop music, TV shows, and films, so I’m surprised to realize that The Vegetarian is the first time I’m reading a Korean author. Han Kang does think that “Korean literature is starting to become a trend,” so I’m sure Korean books will be translated into English faster and become more accessible for international readers.

Join my Cuppa Tea Book Club group on Goodreads, and let me know your thoughts on The Vegetarian. There are discussion threads for every book pick with no deadlines, so please jump in on any conversation at any time.


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