A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara Book Review

Friday, 24 July 2020

A Little Life
Author: Hanya Yanagihara 
Pages: 720
Publisher: Doubleday
Publication date: March 10th 2015
Genre: fiction

About the book
When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they're broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity.

Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he’ll not only be unable to overcome—but that will define his life forever.

This is one of those books that I've heard absolutely tonnes about over the past few years, and some of my favourite bloggers and reviewers have labelled this this all-time favourite book, and after taking my own sweet god-damn time to read it (seriously, it took me almost six weeks to get through this), I wholeheartedly see why.

I was completely immersed in this book like no other book I have before, despite how long it took me to finish. I knew going into this book that I would probably like it just from reading the reviews, but I wasn't expecting just how much I would be blown away. Like, completely slap-you-in-the-face blown away. I kinda want to read it again straight away just to make sure I've taken in every word of the story and I don't often say that about a 700+ page book with really tiny font.

Jude. His story is completely heartbreaking and the more I learned about him, the more I was deeply saddened by his past and how it was categorically horrifying. The more Yanagihara revealed about him, the more appalling the details were, but the more eager I was to find out how things ended up for him. There was a hunger for Jude; to learn not only how he came to be where and who he is today, but also to know where life would take him and what would eventually become of him. I wanted so, so much for him. I wanted for him to be okay. I kept reading on hoping and wishing things would turn out alright for him. He is a devastatingly broken man and his life is a constant struggle to escape the demons of his past, but there is also hope; of friendship, loyalty, of those people in Jude's life who truely, deeply care for him and will never give up on him no matter how unworthy he feels of himself.

Yanagihara does not hold back when revealing Jude's life and the trauma that has come with it. She details both his past abuse growing up and how the severe physical and emotional abuse he suffered as an adolescence has ultimately and effectively burdened his present self. She captures the refinement of human emotion with such dignity and precision that this book is so undeniably raw and painful, but also truely beautiful at times. Yanagihara offers us temporary relief from the pain and suffering by allowing us to see how beautiful Jude's friendship really are. For me personally, A Little Life's most endearing moments are not of the vivid portrayals of human abuse, but the moments of passionate, tender friendship from all those who care for Jude; Harold, Andy, Willem, Malcom & JB - they're the people who remind us that despite the length humans will go to be insanely cruel, others can be everything you need them to be, they can be compassionate and loyal and devoted.

Yanagihara has previously said that she had these characters in her head for a very long time before their story came together and you can really tell this is true. You can tell very clearly that Yanagihara has put all her effort into doing these characters justice. She writes about these characters so flawlessly and keeps the momentum going for a 720 page book. There is a depth of the author's perception about her characters and her writing is so clean and honest and exposing that it hurts to read this books at times. It's a long book. It's substantial and hard-hitting but it's also powerful and important and raw.

Jude becomes a symbol, and emblem if you will, that shows you that no matter what life throws your way, not matter how damaged you become, there will always be people who will try to lift you up, who give you their all, no matter how beaten down you are, there are people that will always try to be a flicker of light in a dark world. It was more beautiful and heartbreaking than I could have ever imagined and these characters will stay with me for a very, very, very long time.

Verdict: ★★★★★

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