A Little Life broke me. Never in my life have I ever cried from a book – except for this one. And it wasn’t just a few tears either, I was violently sobbing by the end of this book.
A Little Life tells the story of Jude St. Francis, a man crippled (no pun intended) by an excruciatingly difficult childhood. The book also chronicles the life of Jude’s close friends from college, Willem, Malcolm, and JB.
Let me first begin by saying that Hanya Yanagihara’s prose is beautiful. She’s a master of literary strategy. Her prose is easy to read, and whenever I’d start reading, I wouldn’t be able to put it down for a long while – which rarely happens to me. I’d forget that I was reading, and would within the story for hours on end. Case in point, I finished the latter 400 pages of this book in one evening, forgetting my other obligations. That has never happened before, even with my all-time favorite book War and Peace.
The characters in this novel weren’t just characters for me – they were real people. Yanagihara is a master of character, too.
I’m hesitant to fully recommend this book to anyone though, because such a heartbreaking, tragic book isn’t for everyone. That’s the main criticism others have levied against A Little Life, that the book is merely ‘trauma porn’ – even emotional manipulation – given Jude’s storyline. I understand this viewpoint, though I disagree, but this review wouldn’t be comprehensive without noting this.
Personally, I’d highly recommend A Little Life to anyone at all intrigued, anyone in need of a story that’ll capture your heart and soul for hours and hours. Because, to me, that’s what A Little Life has been: a story that’s clung to me and has yet to let go.