Review: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

Review: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

For our latest Books in Bed recommendation we bring you the widely talked about novel 'A Little Life' by Hanya Yanagihara: a poignant and harrowing exploration of human suffering, friendship, and the enduring impact of trauma. Set in New York City, the narrative unfolds over several decades, chronicling the lives of four college friends—Jude St. Francis, Willem Ragnarsson, Malcolm Irvine, and JB Marion. 

'A Little Life' delves deep into the life of Jude St. Francis, a brilliant and enigmatic lawyer with a traumatic history that he guards with relentless secrecy for his own protection. Yanagihara's prose is both evocative and immersive, drawing readers into the intricate and complex web of emotions that define Jude's existence, but also the human existance as a whole. The narrative skillfully weaves between past and present, gradually (and painfully) unraveling the layers of Jude's past to expose the raw wounds that have shaped him into the guarded individual he has become. 

Central to the novel is the exploration of friendship as a source of solace and support in the face of overwhelming adversity. The bonds forged between the characters are powerful, offering moments of light and love amidst the darkness that fills much of the narrative. The friendships are portrayed with authenticity, capturing the nuances of loyalty, sacrifice, and the enduring nature of human connections.

At the heart of 'A Little Life' lies a searing examination of trauma and its enduring impact on the human psyche. Jude's journey is marked by relentless physical and emotional suffering, and Yanagihara does not shy away from depicting the graphic details of his pain. The novel raises important questions about resilience, the possibility of healing, and the lengths to which individuals will go to cope with the unrelenting weight of their past. 

At over 800 pages and with some incredibly heavy subject matter, you'll need to weigh up if this is the book for you, or if it's the right time for you to read it. I received a number of well-intentioned warnings before starting the book from people who couldn't make it past the first 100 pages, and even had a stranger come up to me once when reading it at a train station to tell me 'good luck. I still think about that book daily'. So yes, not a light hearted holiday read if that's what you're looking for, but it is nonetheless brilliant if you can make it to the end...

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