Monday 9 November 2015

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

This book was described to me as “harrowing” and then the reader told me she couldn’t read anything else for a while after she finished it. No wonder this sat on my shelf for ages, tempting me to try it, be harrowed, and stop reading. Forever. Oh the horror.

I couldn’t get into it until about 200 pages in. Usually I’ve given up (or finished) by then, but I am quite stubborn about completing books and I was enjoying the writing, so this kept me going.

Why you should read this book:

  1. It is harrowing – truly that is the word. Jude emerges as the central character in a four friend circle, and you will be drawn into and shocked by these lives, their joy and pain. 
  2. It is long - at over 720 pages, the author has time to build these characters up and they become a part of your little life – the length cleverly showing that building relationships takes time and is worthwhile. 
  3. It will consume you. You will read late into the night, and put down work to read it. You may do little else but read for a few days. 
  4. It is about friendship. Relating and connecting with others who are broken. And this part is superbly written. 
  5. It was nominated for a Man Booker and received many other literary awards.

Why you shouldn’t read this book:

  1. It is harrowing – it is very difficult to say that you enjoyed this book, or to recommend it to loved ones. 
  2. It is long - really, did it need that many pages to build those characters? And the length does make it a little dull. 
  3. It will consume you. You will not get much life done once you are hooked, other than compulsive reading, which I always think is doing a lot. 
  4. It is about friendship. It will tear you apart, and leave you desperate at times. Not always in a good way. 
  5. It was nominated for a Man Booker – really? Read the list of the nominees and the winners – who chooses these books? 

In summary, Yanagihara’s intimate portrait of the agony and the ecstasy of human relationships, in all their glory and all their brokenness, is worth a read. You need to be strong, and you need to persevere. This is not a recommendation, but you will never forget this book. You have been warned.

4 out of 5 stars

ISBN: 9780385539258

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