Customer Review

Reviewed in Australia on 8 September 2015
It's a long time since I've wept so much reading a novel. At first I thought: there's a lot of telling, not showing, but it wasn't long before I entered this world fully, & compulsively read to the bitter end. And bitter it is. If anyone doubted the damage that child abuse causes (& the abuse Jude suffers is extreme), they have only to read this novel, as well as watch the many child abuse hearings going on round the world. So many lives ruined, so many dead. A psychologist once said that the saying " We are never given more than we can bear" is complete nonsense. She had seen many in mental institutions who had been given more than is humanly possible to bear. Why the product description talks about the light at the end of the tunnel is a mystery.

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.
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