The Joy of Korean Literature

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The VegetarianThe Vegetarian by Han Kang

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have been reading a few novels translated into English lately and I have not been disappointed. I discovered The Vegetarian on the podcast The Joy of Serious Literature last year and finally purchased a copy. 

According to two of my Korean friends, Han Kang's work is quite popular. This book won the 2016 Man Booker International Prize which is awarded to the best novel translated into English. 

Although not a perfect measure, I am yet to be disappointed by a book that has received a national or international award. Kang's prose is brilliant, and her dialogue (a difficult skill to master) is even better. 

What I have noticed from a few international authors is the interesting use of different voices, for example, switching from first to third-person narration in different parts of the book, and also, in this book, bringing three distinct parts into one compelling story. 

What I enjoyed most about The Vegetarian was the complete absence of a happy ending. It begs the question, who was your favourite character? 

Much like the podcast's host's Korean friend, I found the artist to be my favourite. Not because of what he does, which is a bit out there, but because he is "the only character who gets what he wants". 

I doubt stories like this would work for an Anglo author - I think the tone would make it all a bit "dirty". Without giving too much away, if you are looking for inspiration, this isn't the book for you. But if you enjoy the lasting residue of stories well told, this one will stay with you for some time.

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