Paperback, 720 Pages
Adult/ Contemporary/ LGBT
By: Hanya Yanagihara
“…things get broken, and sometimes they get repaired, and in most cases, you realize that no matter what gets damaged, life rearranges itself to compensate for your loss, sometimes wonderfully.”
I was always hesitant to whether I should pick up this book or not as it had many mixed reviews. Part of me knew that I will end up somewhere in the middle because that is usually the case for me with polarizing reads. I could see why people may like this book and I can also see why they would want to DNF it and not like it. The book currently has more than quarter of a million ratings on GR with an average rating of 4.31 which is very high so it looks like the majority of people like it. I decided to read this book because I am a very curious person and can’t help it when it comes to books like this one and because my friend Chris wanted to read it and we decided to suffer together.
Let me start by saying that the synopsis is quite misleading, I don’t think of it as a book about friendship and I thought there will be focus on all 4 friends but it is in fact the story of Jude and the traumas he went through in his life. Willem also has major roles in the story but Malcolm and JB were minor characters. I also thought that it follows the guys in their early adulthood years but it actually takes events through decades starting with the characters at their twenties and spanning many years after that with many glimpses to their childhood.
A Little Life is not so little, it is the largest contemporary book I ever read and I can’t say that I understand this length. I mean I literally read full stories in a quarter or a third of this books length and they had more impact on me so more is not better in this case. However, I did not feel that I was bored and I was interested to finish the whole book mainly due to the prose. I believe Yanagihara has great writing skills and I was fascinated by the writing more than once and it is what pushed me to continue the whole way. If the prose was more ordinary, I don’t think I would have been willing to finish the book. The book is divided into 7 parts, each part is 3 chapters told in third person POV with a few chapters told in first person POV.
“What he knew, he knew from books, and books lied, they made things prettier.”
The characters in this book go through a lot. I think Willem is my favorite along with Dr. Andy, Malcolm was not really central to the story, JB was meh and Jude is probably the most broken character I have ever read. Jude has so much self loathing and depreciation to the point that it may be tiring to the readers.
The plot is kind of weak in my opinion, I did not know what the end goal was so it was easy to predict how this will end. There are also all kind of triggering events in this book from child abuse, pedophilia, rape, cutting, suicide, grooming, drugs, cancer, physical and mental illnesses and I don’t think they were handled in the best way possible. Some of the events were obviously there for the shocking factor and I think it is hard to judge this without having gone through some of these events. I also think this is not a book to be “enjoyed” because it is just one trauma after another, the book does have happy events but they are never focused on and just brushed off easily. For me, it looks like the author decided to come up with the most tragic events you can think of and distributed them among many decades and made the characters -and readers- go through all of that. Maybe some readers appreciated some of the events and how they were handled but I find it hard to imagine “enjoying” this book. I also read one review mentioning how it has stereotypes that can be damaging to the LGBT community and I agree with it.
“Harold sighs. “Jude,” he says, “there’s not an expiration date on needing help, or needing people. You don’t get to a certain age and it stops.”
Summary: I read A Little Life to quench my curiosity and I finally see why it is such a polarizing read. I did enjoy the writing very much and also cared a bit about the characters. It is too long and has any unnecessary events just to shock the reader. I did not appreciate how some of the events were handled and specially not the ending. I think the book kind of lack depths but it is gripping enough to finish. I am curious about the author’s next book and will see if she will follow the same approach or come up with something different!
P.S: Not a single tear was shed reading this unfortunately!