Life and musings Poetry and other stories

A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara: a book review

February 16, 2018

A Little Life, a powerful, 720 page book, that will inevitably break your heart, over and over again. It’s funny, no matter how much more sinister or real life gets for me, I still hold out for happy endings in books. Many times, reading this, I found it difficult to keep going. Nevertheless, I quickly and assuredly became attached to the four main characters, developing a torturous affection for them.

Sometimes reading this book, you often feel that the sheer length of it reflects the amount of times it will being tears to your eyes. At moments it is the sharp appearance of a sentence, that perfectly captures a feeling, something of life, that wakes a part of you. Other times it is paragraphs upon paragraphs, offering a relentless story, that you never had imagined in your own less colourful life. And then, among swallowing the information, you must quietly sit with the privilege you have been afforded.

What is there to love about this book? Firstly, as I have referenced above, is its ability to make you feel, to cut through any nonchalance you may have felt about your every day life in a single moment. Even if it was through something slightly lighter, like a heartily laugh or a cheeky giggle.

Secondly, is it coming of age element. Following four young college boys to the latter end of their life, in one single book, is something I personally adore in many stories of this kind. Also, a very appropriate nod to the title ‘A Little Life’, because somehow Yanagihara, has squeezed in such a rich, volatile and textured lives of many people between the pages of a simple book.

And lastly, it’s because it is successfully a real window into life. The daily, inevitable horrors that exist-if not in our own lives-then certainly, a friends or someone-you-know. All the things you think will never happen to you, all the things you think you can never recover from, and all the things you think not possible.

And so, depending on your mood, you could come away from it brow-beaten. Is this what we are furiously keeping alive for? Tragedy is bestowed upon all of us, and coming, whether we like it or not. But somehow, I have finished the book in good spirits. This image I have of life from the book is a textured, and in places unsightly beast, that is sometimes suddenly, almost overwhelmingly beautiful. To be feared and loved at the same time—living in your back garden.

I suppose it’s how I feel about the book too. A genuine congratulations to Yanagihara who has managed to capture this funny little thing called life. Read it! 

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