This novel has a chilling, dark premise of a woman slowly descending into madness. I was allured by that and the beautiful cover art. Yeong-hye decides one day that she wants to stop eating meat because of a nightmare she had. She does succeed even though it puts tension between her and her husband and her family. It’s set in present day South Korea and told in three different perspectives: her husband, her brother-in-law, and her sister. It made the story more riveting to see the people closeted to Yeong-hye, but never actually seeing her perspective.
Yeong-hye is very taciturn and slowly plummets into madness after experiencing nightmares that cause her to go vegetarian. She eventually suffers from insomnia and becomes anorexic. Told in her husband’s perspective, he witnesses her lose an unhealthy amount of weight and becomes more sickly appearing. The whole time the husband is more embarrassed by her instead of caring for her. He comes off as very cold and insensitive. One of the first things he says in the book about his wife, Yeong-hye, is that she is unremarkable and why not marry her. I didn’t particularly like him, although the first third of the book was the best and it slowly went downhill from there.
Yeong-hye’s brother-in-law becomes obsessed with her after his wife (Yeong-hye’s sister) mentions that Yeong-hye still has her Mongolian mark. This is a small blue mark on infants’ lower back and buttocks after birth and it usually fades into adulthood. The brother-in-law is an artist and has these crazy ideas of painting flowers on bodies and filming them having sex. He wants to do this with Yeong-hye. He develops a sexual tension towards her because of this mark and says that her vegetarianism just makes her more interesting.
Yeah, it’s that weird.
The first 75 pages or so were the best and the book just gets weird and unnecessary. It left me feeling unsatisfied with Yeong-hye’s character. I wanted to see more of her and what she was going through. I thought at first she would be as this enigmatic figure and the story would be compelling but it ended up being lackluster.