A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
This is the first book I have ever read with its own Instagram account. I stumbled on it after I’d finished all 800 pages and got a glimpse into the cult status the novel now has, particularly in the USA. A Little Life is bleak, emotionally demanding fiction but it is also a page turning ride you will love to the very end.
Set in New York, A Little Life kicks off with the irresistible premise of four friends who are making their way through life after college. They meet weekly over a bowl of watery noodles from their favourite Vietnamese place, move each other’s furniture, host awkward parties and support each other’s early career choices. Each so cleverly written, I could have immersed myself in the lives of any of these characters, but it is Jude whose story this book becomes.
Jude is the quiet, smart one – the one they all adore and instinctively want to protect. He is also the one they know least about. As the story unfolds, we learn more about his past and the pressure on him to reveal it his friends. You know you are invested emotionally in a book when you find yourself saying “just tell them Jude, you will feel so much better” and then “mmm on second thoughts” only two pages later.
Despite all my raving, it would be irresponsible of me not to flag serious themes of abuse and self-harm in this book. I’m not talking about just a little bit here and there but big, chunky, gut wrenching slabs of it. There is not much left to the imagination and there were a few times I had to put it down to take a breather.
On the brighter side, I love the floating sequence of events and the way Yanagihara’s characters take turns in the first person from chapter to chapter. The book is also choc-a- bloc full of visual pulls and like me, you may finish off wanting to see images of the characters, the spaces they lived in and the art they collected. The novel has a very strong NY/Tom Ford-esque style about it and that is possibly the explanation for the Instagram account. Check it out when you finish….
I am sure many people will debate whether the book really needed all 800 pages. I mean does any book really need to be 800 pages? I would normally be found firmly in the nip n’ tuck camp but in this case, I was happy to indulge and to keep Jude’s story going for as long as we could all hold out.
And that’s my 2 cents worth. Read it.