A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

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When I first initially told people I had started reading A Little Life, I received so many comments and direct messages telling me this book either broke them or they had thrown it across the room once they finished it. Such strong opinions only intensified my curiosity for this book, by the time I finished Part One, I was hooked.

This book starts off fun and sweet, then sharply takes a turn, and you beginning to question what went wrong and what’s going on. Then, you’re trapped in misery as you follow along the suffering of one man. Sounds terrible, I know. Why would you wanna read something miserable. Well, because as much misery as there is, there is also much hope in this book. After I finished reading this, I reflected back on how I reacted to characters and events. Somehow this book was powerful enough to change me, gave me the desire to change the bad qualities in me that out-weight the good ones.

This book will remain with me for a long time, and I do see myself rereading it, again.

Now, as much as I did love this book, I acknowledge that there were things about it I simply didn’t. However, I will first list and explain those I did like:

The Writing


Hanya Yanagihara’s writing was so smooth that I would get so sucked into the book’s world and forget myself. I normally read in coffee shops now, and I would start crying while reading this, forgetting I was in public. Yanagihara’s writing would get so sentimental without it ever being mushy or dramatic, though some events in the book may get well melodramatic. Also, just the way Yanagihara sets up the book is perfect, the going back to the past and forward again, planting scenes and giving enough information to keep you intrigued without fully giving you everything, for the big reveal toward the middle, even then leaving things out. So well planned. Wow.

Friendship and Love


The strength in the love that the main characters all have for each other. This is one of the things that I reflected a lot on, especially within my own character. I am not the most affectionate nor the most patient. Therefore, in the beginning of this book I was easily irritated with Jude’s stubbornness to accept the unfailing love and kindness he is given and often times even found myself calling him selfish. Once I got deeper in the book, I began to feel guilty, for judging Jude so harshly, so quickly. This I knew was a character flaw of mine, one I often yield to in my personal life. I knew I needed to be more understanding, patient, and forgiving in order to truly give love or kindness to someone for I may not know what hardships and suffering they may have gone through. I know theres a quote out there that signifies this but not until now do I truly understand what that means. Anyway, many people try and never give up trying to help and support Jude out of love for him, and even though he rejects their help most of the time, they persist. That’s the power of love, I realized. Also, only those that reciprote that love are the ones who deserve it from you.

Now, the things I didn’t like…

Lack of Women


Now, I suspect this was Yanagihara’s intention, so there could be a focus on the many relationships between men, but it felt strange and unrealistic that not many women were present in a significant way, even Julia’s presence, which is significant in Jude’s life, wasn’t written as if she was.

The Fantasy-like World


Sometimes I found it hard to believe some of the stuff that was happening. For instance the success of all the four friends or how Jude happens to be a prodigny in everything. It sometimes felt too far-fetched. The reason this didn’t sway me too far from liking this book was that I understand this is a work of fiction. It doesn’t have to play into reality, per se. This book had a purpose and it needed things to happen a certain way to get that purpose out.

So, there overall I liked this book. The main reason I do is because it taught me more about being compassionate and empathic.

If anyone wants to discuss more about this, feel free to comment. I would be happy to.

Thanks All.

Yadi

8 thoughts on “A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

  1. First of all, Congratulations! to your very own Blog. I am curious which other reviews and ramblings will find their way onto this little space of yours.

    As for A Little Life –
    I want to pick one part out of your review which explains also, why I did not like this book, in the end. Fiction, or not – a book needs to keep its authenticity for me. Feeling real. And without wanting to spoil, the last half is clearly overloaded with experiences which were simply, too unbelievable to occur. And all – to the very one and same person. Please, let me stress that this is only: my personal viewpoint.

    I am a reader who consciously dedicates time of my own life to a book. And as such, I wish I could haven taken something out of this book, for myself. I couldn’t. And in addition, being so horribly long – all the pain, the suffering, and mind me even saying: this enormous amount of unhealthy, self-harmful way of thinking … it got to a point where it frustrated me only.
    I closed this book, feeling: relief. About it being (finally) over. And that’s never a good thing with me. Because I love reading and want to proudly, love reading a book.

    Perhaps, the comparison ain’t fair. But I can take painful stories; 700+ pages of John Boyne’s The Heart’s Invisible Furies for example. That book contains a lot of sorrow but it always, allows some humour to pop up. It provided me with a message overall, that has helped me take something beautiful out of the novel. And the dialogues were rich with human touch – and feeling: real. I would always, go ahead and recommend the Boyne rather than the Yanagihara. Also, because I know that Boyne gives. Not just: leaves the reader with a huge bag of pain to deal with, her/himself.

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    1. I actually agree with you. I should have elaborated on that. I also felt like what came in the last half was a bit far fetched. I do understand that bad things can happen to people but it seemed a bit unrealistic that it should all happen to one man. I’ve known people who have gone through similar things, so I know these things happen but even that wasn’t enough to convince me.
      As for the self-harming way of thinking, that exists in the world, I know people who live in that state constantly. I have been the kind of person that has supported a person like this. For me that was relatable. However, I will say that a lot of the people in Jude’s life didn’t do enough for him in the younger years. Everyone just turned a blind eye, even though they knew something was wrong. Andy was the only one to actually make attempts early on. That aspect also seems a bit unrealistic, that no one tried harder to know what was going on with Jude earlier on. However, this was acknowledged towards the end by Willem.
      I have The Heart’s Invisible Furies and have it lined up for next month. Looking forward to that one.
      Thanks for your thoughts, Caecilla!

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  2. This book <3.

    So excited you are spreading the word about Yangihara.
    You should check out her less known first novel, People in the Trees.
    It's also a heavy read, but worth the thought about how groups of civilation interact with each other.

    Keep up the good work!

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  3. Congrats on the blog! This book was so melodramatic and farfetched that I left feeling extremely disappointed on the content and kind of wary of the author’s constant use of the readers sympathy to the characters. Our main character is waaaayy too good and “pure” and that type of character in this case did not sit well with
    Best of wishes!

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    1. Interesting point – I had not thought about that perspective. But yes (and a strong one) that Yanagihara fully, trusts readers to let her guide them into depressing feelings. And also, Yes! to the main character being portrayed in a “too good” and pure way. I would also like to add that what felt particularly frustrating to me, was how all the good things happening later on, in his life – were met with no appreciation. I get that it takes time to heal, and probably: a LOT in his case. But his numb way of living had me shaking my head. At some point in life – no matter what happened back then, in your childhood – isn’t it relevant to wake up & confront it? To choose: Life. That’s hard if you are left alone. I get that. But this guy – he had friends. People who cared so much they even: adopted him. He was surrounded by human beings who tried to show him how important it would be for him to confront his inner battles – and, what does he do? … *Sigh* / Long story short: This book really, wasn’t my kinda read. On so many levels. And I am not even starting with the effect this book must be having on many sensitive young adult readers who already carry a depressive tendency with them and suffer from being: vulnerable. How hopeless the world must appear to them, after reading this book.

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  4. Yadi,

    What a perfect review of things that you liked and didn’t like about this book. I just finished reading it and I find that I could write about so many things and at the same time I can’t. I seriously find myself mourning the book so much and its been a day now since I finished reading. I believe it will stay with me for so long. I am so glad you shared your thoughts about Jude because I felt the exact same way. There were so many times when I wasn’t patient and I realized that I could never be Jude’s friend because I couldn’t bestow upon him the patience and love that he needed. It really made me confront a lot of things about myself that I don’t like confronting. I think Jude is relatable (stick with me) in the sense that he takes things we think about ourselves to an extreme but they are still presented in a way that we all recognize. How many times have we not been reassured by those who love us but it still doesn’t seem to be enough proof? How many times have you been called beautiful but you never see it in the mirror? I know it’s happened to me plenty of times. I loved the parts where Willem and Jude would do things to “protect” each other and then realize that perhaps it was selfish. This book is so human and though its not perfect, it definitely is one of a kind. I know that I’ll continue thinking about this book for so long but I dont’ know if I could reread it. Maybe I’ll go back to the happy parts. Someone told me that the Happy Years are happy for Jude. I thought at first it was misleading because no way was that chapter happy but for Jude it was. It definitely taught me so many lessons that I’m still parsing through. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. I truly appreciated them.

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    1. Thank you for taking the time to read my post! I can see what you mean by Jude being relatable in a way. I think as humans we all have things that we find relatable to each other . And yeah, that’s def something I relate to from Jude as well. Some parts of the book seemed too implausible for me but overall, I think the writer wanted to give out a specific message… I’m not sure how I feel about that yet. The best thing about this book was that it made me cry a lot and feel a lot, which assured me that I am an empathetic human.

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