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A Little Life: Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2015 Paperback – 22 March 2016
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WINNER OF THE KIRKUS PRIZE 2015 & SHORTLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2015
inch Astonishing and unsettling A masterwork inch San Francisco Chronicle
inch A book that demands to be read. inch Wall Street Journal
A Little Life is an immensely powerful and heartbreaking novel of brotherly love and the limits of human endurance.
When four graduates 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cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity.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.
ACCLAIM FOR A LITTLE LIFE
inch Transporting. A Little Life is not to be missed. inch Evening Standard
inch The first must-read novel of the year inch Kirkus
inch A singularly profound and moving work. It's not often that you read a book of this length and find yourself thinking inch I wish it was longer inch but Yanagihara takes you so deeply into the lives and minds of these characters that you struggle to leave them behind. inch The Times
inch Makes for near-hypnotically compelling reading, a vivid, hyperreal portrait of human existence that demands intense emotional investment. An astonishing achievement: a novel of grand drama and sentiment, but it's a canvas Yanagihara has painted with delicate, subtle brushstrokes. inch Independent
inch Utterly compelling. quite an extraordinary novel. It is impossible to put down. And it is almost impossible to forget. inch Daily Express.
A Little Life makes for near-hypnotically compelling reading, a vivid, hyperreal portrait of human existence that demands intense emotional investment . . . An astonishing achievement: a novel of grand drama and sentiment, but it's a canvas Yanagihara has painted with delicate, subtle brushstrokes. ― Independent
One of the pleasures of fiction is how suddenly a brilliant writer can alter the literary landscape . . . Ms. Yanagihara's immense new book . . . announces her, as decisively as a second work can, as a major American novelist. Here is an epic study of trauma and friendship written with such intelligence and depth of perception that it will be one of the benchmarks against which all other novels that broach those subjects (and they are legion) will be measured. ― Wall Street Journal
How often is a novel so deeply disturbing that you might find yourself weeping, and yet so revelatory about human kindness that you might also feel touched by grace? Yanagihara's astonishing and unsettling second novel . . . plumbs the rich inner lives of all of her characters... You don't just care deeply about all these lives. Thanks to the author's exquisite skill, you feel as if you are living them . . . A Little Life is about the unimaginable cruelty of human beings, the savage things done to a child and his lifelong struggle to overcome the damage. Its pages are soaked with grief, but it's also about the bottomless human capacity for love and endurance . . . It's not hyperbole to call this novel a masterwork - if anything that word is simply just too little for it ― San Francisco Chronicle
Martin Amis once asked, "Who else but Tolstoy has made happiness really swing on the page?" And the surprising answer is that Hanya Yanagihara has: counterintuitively, the most moving parts of "A Little Life" are not its most brutal but its tenderest ones, moments when Jude receives kindness and support from his friends . . . A Little Life feels elemental, irreducible-and, dark and disturbing though it is, there is beauty in it ― New Yorker
Utterly compelling . . . quite an extraordinary novel. It is impossible to put down . . . And it is almost impossible to forget. ― Daily Express
A darkly beautiful tale of love and friendship... I've read a lot of emotionally taxing books in my time, but A Little Life . . . is the only one I've read as an adult that's left me sobbing. I became so invested in the characters and their lives that I almost felt unqualified to review this book objectively . . . There are truths here that are almost too much to bear - that hope is a qualified thing, that even love, no matter how pure and freely given, is not always enough. This book made me realize how merciful most fiction really is, even at its darkest, and it's a testament to Yanagihara's ability that she can take such ugly material and make it beautiful ― Los Angeles Times
Capacious and consuming . . . Boast[s] a scale and immersive power to rival the recent epics of Donna Tartt and Elizabeth Gilbert . . . Alternately devastating and draining, A Little Life floats all sorts of troubling questions about the responsibility of the individual to those nearest and dearest and the sometime futility of playing brother's keeper. Those questions, accompanied by Yanagihara's exquisitely imagined characters, will shadow your dreamscapes ― Boston Globe
Astonishing . . . tender, torturous and achingly alive to the undeniable pain that can scar a life. ― Psychologies
A Little Life asks serious questions about humanism and euthanasia and psychiatry and any number of the partis pris of modern western life. It's Entourage directed by Bergman; it's the great 90s novel a quarter of a century too late; it's a devastating read that will leave your heart, like the Grinch's, a few sizes larger. -- Alex Preston ― Observer
- ASIN : 1447294831
- Publisher : Picador (22 March 2016)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 736 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9781447294832
- ISBN-13 : 978-1447294832
- Dimensions : 13 x 4.5 x 19.7 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: 333 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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If like me, your mind has a mind of its own, take good care of yourself while reading this book. Take a break with something lighter, particularly if you're prone to nightmares and insomnia.
I read one of Hanya Yanagihara's interview, in which she stated her goal with "A Little Life" was to turn everything up to just beyond normal tolerance. Well, she absolutely succeeded! This book consumed me as fast as I could consume it, so much so that it took me a full two months to read. As an abuse victim and longstanding PTSD "survivor" (NOT!), there were many times I couldn't continue reading the intensity of situations described. Not only are they graphic and horrifying, but sadly they are also utterly accurate.
On the more optimistic side, "A Little Life" is a love story on so many levels. There is a huge amount of kindness in the world, although it sometimes doesn't feel like it. I found myself communing with Harold and Julia, with Doctor Andy, and of course with Willem and Jude.
A very long book - my favourite kind! - the language is dense, meandering and demanding of concentration. After paragraphs and paragraphs of sharing Jude's agonies, Ms Yanagihara almost glosses over the most significant events. Several times I would turn a page and say, "Wait a minute! What just happened? OMG, OMG, OMG!"
I feel proud to have survived this book.
As other reviewers have said, the novel concerns four male college friends of various racial backgrounds as they navigate their way towards fame & success. There's JB the witty ambitious painter, Willem the kind actor, Malcolm the sensitive & somewhat insecure architect, & Jude the maths genius, linguist, musician & lawyer, who never reveals anything of his past, unlike the others. Add to these a colourful cast of friends & relations. Yanagihara takes us through a journey of almost forty years as these people grow, develop, change, & ebb towards & away from each other. At first it seems that we will follow the four equally, but the story homes in on Jude, who walks with pain & difficulty after an incident with a car when he was 15. We are shown that he is physically & mentally scarred, that he cuts himself, & in a series of painful flashbacks we discover why. This makes for searing reading. We hope against hope that with the good things now happening in his life, he will be able to trust, love & enjoy himself & those who love him, but with a childhood as relentlessly bleak as his, it's a tough ask. Yanagihara makes us understand how hard it is for him to get through his days. She explores the demands & rewards of friendship & love with a clear, deep eye, & like many, I was left exhausted & profoundly moved. Will he be able to continue, after the death of his lover? Can his adoptive parents save him? Can his friends? Is it right to let a person go, when life simply becomes too great a struggle? No wonder this is odds on to win the Man Booker.
How we get to where we are, what makes us who we are, what the world does not see. The struggles, the inner turmoils. A view of a life.
I only give five stars to books that I would read again. This is one I will read again.
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So what DOES the author spend all these pages doing? You might assume 'a Little Life must be plot driven then', but again, no. There is very little plot. The author constantly teases details of Jude's early life - he was horrifically abused and injured as a child (at the hands of a catholic monk, natch), but really the book isn't about this, it's about how Jude tries (and mostly fails) to deal with this trauma in his adult life (mostly through copious amounts of self harm), and the impact it has on those around him. The main bit of suspense a Little Life swings on is that Jude conveniently never explains to people what actually happened to him - you think he's about to but no, he doesn't, and the book reverts to another hundred pages of tedious dinners and thanksgivings and memories that go precisely nowhere.
I'd say you could slim this book down, but I think by bringing together all the actual stuff that happens, you would see just how unlikely and unoriginal plot is - the over-ornate misfortunates experienced by Jude, the improbability of the four main characters' ability to be the centre of attention wherever they go and the top of all their respective fields, and actually how mundane the plot is when you distil it down: traumatic childhood > gilded success but ennui in adulthood > eventually finding love > happiness destroyed in a convenient accident > sadness, acceptance and death.
The trick at the heart of this book is that its length creates the illusion that the plot has any depth or nuance, it tricks you into thinking that the characters are well developed just because you spent a load of time reading about them. It tricks you into thinking it's clever just because everyone in it is an acclaimed artist, or an A-list movie star, or an era-defining architect, or a Harvard professor, or (in Jude's case) a brilliant mathematician and lawyer and philanthropist and art collector all in one. But it's not, it's just indulgent YA literature.
Once you notice the way that additional, superfluous length is being added in, this is a really frustrating read: events will be described, someone present will be reminded of an event that happened several months prior and pointless paragraphs of totally irrelevant information stretch on and on describing this until suddenly the story reverts back to what is actually happening and the narrative continues, except it feels totally disjointed. Yes, this can be used in writing to great effect, but a Little Life doesn't do that. It just feels like pure padding.
One reason I think this book has been so acclaimed, is that the author uses a Little Life to talk about the hot topic of 'identity' (potentially a good intention), but does so in such a shallow, tokenistic and unrealistic way that it borders on offensive. The author labours so much over emphasising that the grey cast of tediously metropolitan background characters are all on different ends of the LGBT spectrum, all incredibly racially diverse, but in such a way that they are all inherently unbelievable. Just their names (Citizen van Straaten, Rhodes Arrowsmith, Phaedra de los Santos, Andy Contractor) is enough to make you cringe at how unlikely it all is. There are no characters in this who feel fundamentally real - it's like they've all been conjured from a faux New York Magazine reading alternate globalist universe (where everyone is rich, by the way, but only through cool and interesting creative careers of course, nothing boring and conventional).
Finally, what made me truly dislike this book is the fact that while almost all its main characters are male, the author seems completely unable to create convincing male characters, write male dialogue and describe male relationships. If you just count the number of lines of dialogue that begin with indulgent 'Oh's and sighs and gasps you'll know what I mean. The author wanted to create a novel about glamorous, diverse people, but it feels like 'The people a teenager from Ohio imagined they would befriend if they went to art school in New York'.
I was recommended this by someone I really respect so I saw it through just to see if it got better. I would recommend others not to bother.
The writing of this book is sublime in its language and Hanya Yanagihara is able to write plot lines, that in some parts are harrowing, in a beautiful and lyrical way. I actually found her prose hypnotic, I was drawn into this book and couldn't tear my eyes away from the page. There are lots of difficult issues discussed in this book, rape, abuse, suicide, drug abuse, and many more but still I was entranced by this book. Hanaya Yanagihara shows a great understanding, intelligence and empathy towards these subjects. Her characterisation is again wonderful, with all her characters so true to life that at times I felt like I was reading a biography/autobiography rather than a piece of fiction. In a way A Little Life is a dark Fairytale with good, evil and romance at its centre.
Jude is the main character in A Little Life, and all the other character's stories are all linked to his. In all my years of reading I don't think I have ever come across a character as damaged psychologically and physically as Jude. When we first meet him in the book we know he has physical problems and throughout the book his past is gradually revealed to the reader. Jude has experienced the best and worst of humanity through his life, and seen love in many guises from destructive love to the love of friendship that is all encompassing. Even though his story is hard to read in places, I found him a compelling character who I was really down to and wanted him to find happiness. Willem is the person whom he is closest to, a friendship that is unconditional and intense in places; it is Willem that is there for Jude at some of his lowest moments. Malcolm is different in that he comes from a wealthy family, very different from Jude who has no family and Willem whose parents are dead. His relationship with JB can be tense around the subject of race; Malcolm has a white mother and black father where as JB's parents are both black. JB is the typical troubled artist, very talented but also open to addiction. Through his story there is the time old discussion of what is art, figurative painting versus the modern art of the instillation, photography and performance art. I was really drawn into this as it something I studied with my degree and always find it a fascinating subject.
To say A Little Life is a masterpiece, a Magnus opus, feels like an understatement. I have read the winner of the Booker Prize from 2015, A Brief History of Seven Killings, and have to say I think A Little Life is so much better. There are very few novels, except from the classics, that I keep to read again but this book will be added to that shelf to join other books that I found through the Booker Prize; Possession by A.S Byatt, Amsterdam by Ian MacEwan and The Goldfinch and The Secret History by Donna Tartt being on that shelf. This is a mesmerising, intelligent, all encompassing read and one that will stay with me forever. This is a monumental novel in my opinion and one I will always recommend as well as those mentioned above. A Little Life is fiction at its absolute best; the perfect novel.