7 March 2015

Cake Shop Book of the Month: The Vegetarian

Posted by the Cake Shop

It called to mind something ancient, something pre-evolutionary, or else perhaps a mark of photosynthesis, and he realised to his surprise that there was nothing at all sexual about it; it was more vegetal than sexual.

We'd like to recommend Han Kang as our author for International Women's Day. Her novel, The Vegetarian, begins when Yeong-hye decides to stop eating meat: a simple decision which spirals into something devastating and unstoppable.

At the Cake Shop, we were initially drawn to the book for it's cover – beautiful flowers which, upon second glance, turn out to be unsettlingly hybridised with meat and body parts. The writing lives up to this strange promise. It's brutal, evocative, sensual, ripe, bewildering.

The descriptions of food are particularly visceral, standing out against the bleakness of Yeong-hye's everyday life and the formality of the society she lives in. The book is a reminder of how political food can be: hunger strike has always been a way for the powerless to take control, a resistance through refusal. At the centre of the book is a woman who does resist – who takes her body for herself with a terrifying logic.

In-hye gently rubs a piece of melon against her sister's lips. She tries to use two of her finger to part Yeong-hye's lips, but her mouth is shut tight... Dazed, she examines the hot anger that is boiling up inside her like spume.