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A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

A Little Life (2015)

by Hanya Yanagihara

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1,6471304,374 (4.11)1 / 180
  1. 10
    The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer (vwinsloe)
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    The Complete Patrick Melrose Novels: Never Mind, Bad News, Some Hope, Mother's Milk, and At Last by Edward St. Aubyn (vwinsloe)
    vwinsloe: Another book about child abuse, although this one is also about substance abuse.

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Showing 1-5 of 121 (next | show all)
I initially really had little interest in reading this book. I kept seeing people rave about it, but something about that cover photo was distressing & not at all appealing to me. I actually thought it was non-fiction for the longest time, and though I read some non-fiction, I don't read a lot of it. But when I saw an unabridged audio copy pop up as available on PaperBackSwap, I thought "Why not?" and shortly after I dove in.

This is a fictional story, a story of four young men who meet in college and then remain friends as they all move to New York City with separate careers. While the story is about all four of these young men, it tends to revolve largely around Jude, who has led a very traumatic life and who cannot seem to escape the horrors of his past.

The word that comes to my mind first and foremost is "damaged". Jude is a very damaged character, and as his story unfolds, it's nearly impossible as a reader to not be affected deeply by his story and his past. There's not a lot I can say about this book that hasn't already been said. The novel is at times very dark & disturbing. Some readers will have trouble getting through it.

While this was well written and very emotional, I wouldn't say it was perfect. It's a very LONG novel, and at times became somewhat repetitive. I didn't keep track of the number of times the phrase "I'm sorry" was used in this story, but it was excessive, and after a point, annoyingly so. While anyone would feel for Jude's character, there were times I wanted to shake him and tell him to get over it. But I felt very compelled to finish this novel, because I had to know how it would end. Was it going to end well or was it going to end in tragedy? I won't say, but I will say that I thought the ending was well-written.

Overall, it's mostly worthy of the praise it's received. A good discussion book as well. ( )
  indygo88 | Feb 18, 2017 |

Where was the editor in this clunker of a novel? For a 700 book to get a glowing review from me it needs to be absorbing from start to finish and this one was not. It started out strong but I soon felt annoyed and wanted it to just end already. But I slogged through to the end.

There was so much repetition it was as if the author simply cut numerous passages and pasted them in every so many pages. It was literally the SAME thoughts over and over and over, especially during the Jude and Willem chapters. I get that there are lifelong devastating effects of severe childhood abuse and no amount of therapy or love will change that. I knew it going in and this book did nothing to further enlighten me. Nothing new or interesting is said about the cycle of abuse.

I know I'm reading fiction, but when four friends from college are all fabulously successful my eyes start to roll. It wasn't enough to be good at what you do, all four had to be the BEST at what they did, and, with no apparent struggles, all became famous in their fields. They were all wealthy, jetting around the world and living a life at the top of the one-percenters.

Add in the preposterous idea that someone who went through Jude's horrific childhood could overcome it to get a full scholarship to an Ivy league university, become the best litigator in the city at a top firm, be an accomplished pianist, mathematician, singer, and cook, surrounded by infinitely patient friends who love him, AND get adopted (as an adult?!) into a loving wealthy family. I read nothing in these pages that would make me believe he could have endeared himself to so many people. I never got a sense of WHY they loved him so. And the doctor Andy? Totally unbelievable and guilty of malpractice.

The bad guys are all pure evil and exist everywhere. Yes, victims of childhood abuse repeat the cycle but it was ludicrous to believe ALL the brothers in the monastery were cruel and/or pedophiles, all the truckers wanted sex from a young boy, and on it goes…sigh.

The author is gifted, the prose is often beautiful, and there’s a good book buried among its pages (thus the 3 stars, rounded up from 2.5), but this book would have benefitted from some brutal editing and more nuanced, fully developed characters.

I usually love dark, dysfunctional stories, and the themes in the book are worth exploring, but it was all tell and no show, which kept me emotionally detached. Nothing brought me to tears and I cry easily. There was no historical context, and the repetition became incredibly boring, melodramatic, and manipulative. There were brilliant passages but the book overall was bloated.

I’m going to add one more “I’m sorry” to the hundreds this book contains: I'm sorry I read it.
( )
1 vote janb37 | Feb 13, 2017 |
I've spent a lot of time thinking about this book. Both while I was reading it, and since I've finished it. But I'm still on the fence about what I think of it.

Without a doubt, Yanagihara creates a narrative that pulled me in and kept my attention throughout the 700 plus pages. The story follows the lives of four friends who meet their first week in college. JB, Malcolm, Willem and Jude come from different backgrounds and have different aspirations, but form a life-long bond.

In the first few hundred pages we meet each of the characters and learn their back story. Well, for three of the friends. The fourth, Jude, is a mystery, even to his friends. Especially to his friends. Early on we get hints of his dark past, but it is the telling of his story that takes up nearly the last 500 pages of the book.

And here is part of my problem with the book. When Jude's story takes over, we lose sight of the other characters. Especially Malcolm and to a lesser extent JB. And one of the problems I had with this, is that despite how clear it is that everyone is very protective of Jude and very loyal to him, I'm never sure why. What is it about Jude the others find so compelling and inspires such fierce protection, love and loyalty? Yes, he's obviously had a difficult childhood, but for years that's all any of them really know. They know he suffered a grave injury that left him in constant pain, but they don't know how the injury happened, or any of the circumstances surrounding the time before they met. And as a reader, I never had a full understanding of what his relationship with his 3 friends was like. More specifically, what did he provide to his friends? What drew them to him and kept them there? Something is missing for me here, something fell flat for me, and the relationships never seemed fully formed to me.

Eventually we see and come to understand the bond between him and Willem better, but even that sometimes left me wanting a clearer understanding of who Jude is apart from an injured friend who needs compassion and protection.

Jude's story is dark, very dark. And many reviewers have commented that this is not a book for everyone because of that. And I would agree. I would also agree with the fact that despite the terrible violence and abuse Jude suffered, Yanagihara doesn't exploit it. It's on the page and the details are enough to send shivers down the most stoic of spines, but the details are never lurid or gratuitous. It is overwhelming at times though. Jude's life makes Job's look like a walk in the park.

I'm left wanting more, not more pages, but more understanding of the fullness of the characters. I was left feeling like an important piece of the puzzle was missing. Something fell a little flat in these not-quite fully realized characters.
O ( )
  bravewoman | Feb 3, 2017 |
Four classmates from a Massachusetts college move to New York to pursue their dreams. JB is an aspiring artist, Malcolm is an aspiring architect, Willem is an aspiring actor and Jude is an aspiring lawyer. They seem to form pairs, JB & Malcolm and Willem & Jude. They all have a tendency to gravitate toward taking care of Jude. Jude is enigmatic and does not talk about his childhood before meeting them.
The novel them tends to focus on Jude's story. He suffered a horrendous childhood and feels as though he does not deserve anything good that happens to him. He walks stilted and declines to remove his clothes (shorts, short sleeves) at all.
We learn of the abusive childhood he endured and how he tends to handle that emotionally and physically.

Kudos to Hanya Yanigihara for her wonderful use of language. I think the book could have been more condensed, a little lengthy. ( )
  JReynolds1959 | Jan 23, 2017 |
Heartbreaking. Utterly heartbreaking. ( )
  kemilyh1988 | Jan 16, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 121 (next | show all)
I'm still talking about A Little Life. It's deeply upsetting, but I think it's a wonderfull story in the end.
added by Sylak | editStylist [Issue 338], Paula Hawkins (Oct 12, 2016)
Yanagihara’s success in creating a deeply afflicted protagonist is offset by placing him in a world so unrealized it almost seems allegorical, with characters so flatly drawn they seem more representative of people than the actual thing. This leaves the reader, at the end, wondering if she has been foolish for taking seriously something that was merely a contrivance all along.
added by ozzer | editNew York Times, Carol Anshaw (Mar 30, 2015)
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To Jared Hohlt
in friendship; with love
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The eleventh apartment had only one closet, but it did have a sliding glass door that opened onto a small balcony, from which he could see a man sitting across the way, outdoors in only a T-shirt and shorts even though it was October, smoking.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385539258, Hardcover)

Brace yourself for the most astonishing, challenging, upsetting, and profoundly moving book in many a season. An epic about love and friendship in the twenty-first century that goes into some of the darkest places fiction has ever traveled and yet somehow improbably breaks through into the light. Truly an amazement—and a great gift for its publisher.
When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they're broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity. Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he’ll not only be unable to overcome—but that will define his life forever.
In rich and resplendent prose, Yanagihara has fashioned a tragic and transcendent hymn to brotherly love, a masterful depiction of heartbreak, and a dark examination of the tyranny of memory and the limits of human endurance.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:57 -0400)

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