It took me less than a week to finish the 700+ pages of A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. Once you start reading it, you can’t put it down and although there were moments when I really wanted to stop and throw the book away (as if by doing so I would be able to change the words in it) I couldn’t do anything but read it, until I finally turned the last page (hence my disappearance from YouTube).
People have different views on this book. In fact, one of my colleagues gave me her copy because she couldn’t finish it. Too depressing she said. And you know what? She was right! This book is depressing. But the reason why many say it is one of the best novels written in recent years is because the story is told in a way that consumes you and although it’s very clear from the get-go that it won’t have a happy ending, you need to know what happens. You just need to know more.
When I started reading this book, I thought it was about the relationship between four friends living in New York, each of them from different backgrounds, with different personalities and ways of approaching life. However, soon I realised that it is centered mainly on one of them: Jude and his relationship not only with the other three friends but also with himself, his past, his future and everything around him.
In a very condensed summary: Jude had a terrible (unimaginably terrible) childhood which had not only physical but also mental repercussions in his life. However, despite his upbringing, he is a good friend who is capable of infinite love for others.
What I liked about this book is the way the author tells the story. One moment you are reading about something that is happening in the present, but in the next paragraph you find yourself in the past or even many years down the line. It takes some time to get used to these time-jumps but I think that’s what makes it so unique. In order to know the whole story of Jude’s childhood (because although you know something really bad happened to him when he was a kid, you really don’t know much at the start) you will need to read through the whole 700+ pages as the author releases pieces of information that you will need to slowly put together.
Do I recommend this book? I really don’t know. It fascinates me how someone can create such a cruel world, but at the same time, such a plausible story. Although I read it in less than a week, I would have read it much quicker if I hadn’t had to stop because the book was dragging me into a mild depression. At some moments, I felt really anxious, it made me feel powerless, I wanted to help Jude but, same as his friends, I didn’t know what would have been the correct thing to do so I had to take mental breaks.
If you are mentally strong, depression is not something that affects you and difficult/sad stories are your cup of tea then I would recommend you this book, otherwise you can spare the tears, the agony and the suffering, because I finished the book 2 nights ago and I still feel the weight of Jude’s story on me. I can’t stop thinking about it. I hope this post helps me put the whole matter to rest once and for all.
It’s really up to you.