Title: A Little Life (Goodreads)
Author: Hanya Yanagihara
Published: Picador, 2015
My Copy: Library Book
Buy: Amazon, Book Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)
A Little Life is a novel about the lifelong friendship of four classmates from a Massachusetts liberal arts college. After college, Willem (an actor), JB (an artist), Malcolm (an architect) and Jude (a lawyer) move to New York to begin their lives. The novel begins by following the friends through their lives and careers and the shifting dynamics of the group. However, Jude becomes the primary focus as we learn about his horrifying backstory.
I am of two minds with this novel; first of all, there are some very important issues explored within A Little Life. I am sure many people have been told about the high amount of trigger warnings that come with this book, dealing with depression, abuse, self-mutilation and so much more. It was nice to explore friendship that are not just a group of heterosexual men. The book itself explore so many issues and I got to a point where I wanted to yell at the friends of Jude, telling them to get mental health first aid certificate, and learn how to handle the situation better.
This brings me to all the problems I had with A Little Life; for starters, I felt like Hanya Yanagihara was just piling all the worst situations onto the character of Jude to a point where it was just getting ridiculous. I understand that some people have suffered a lot but in proportion to everyone else in the book, Jude just has to suffer through it all. I began to hate this aspect of the book to the point where if this was not a library book I would have thrown the novel across the room. Everyone focuses on how wonderful this book was for dealing with so many issues, and I agree, but if we dealt with these issues more regularly in fiction and the media then this book would not get the same amount of attention. I found the writing very flat and boring, it was dull. It became a real chore to read through the novel but I was determined to finish A Little Life for the themes.
Congratulations on Hanya Yanagihara for writing a novel that is dealing with so many important issues. A Little Life is great for this and I hope it paves the way for literature in the future. I hope this will begin a shift from the norm where we are constantly reading about white heterosexual males where there only problem is their own self destructive nature (even if I enjoy that in fiction). A Little Life is the crowd favourite to win the Man Booker prize but I really hope it does not win. There is better literature in the short-list, and I do not think A Little Life is a good representation of what they consider ‘good’ fiction.