Brace yourself for the most astonishing, challenging, upsetting and profoundly moving book in many a season. An epic about love and friendship in the twenty-first century that goes into some of the darkest places fiction has ever travelled and yet somehow improbably breaks through into the light.
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cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their centre of gravity.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.
In a remarkable and precise prose, Yanagihara has fashioned a tragic and transcendent hymn to brotherly love, a masterful depiction of heartbreak, and a dark examination of the tyranny of memory and the limits of human endurance.
I can’t even begin to give you a synopsis or description of this novel. A Little Life is too big and too magnanimous to be squashed into a paragraph or two. It just cannot be done. However, as poor an attempt as it will be I shall try my best.
First and foremost A Little Life is about the friendship of four young men – Jude, Willem, Malcolm and JB – and follows them through their lives into adulthood.
That is all you are getting!
A Little Life streamlines the story to focus on one character – Jude. St Jude is the patron saint of lost souls and it is no surprise to find that is exactly what Jude is – lost. He is taken under the wing by the people around him as they try to convince him of his self worth. However, old wounds are difficult to heal.
A Little Life will leave your feeling a thesaurus of emotion; you literally step onto a rollercoaster of feelings with the turn of every page. I have laughed, cried, been angry, hurt, felt like I was suffocating, been heartbroken, was given hope, felt bone-crushing terror among a lot of other things whilst reading the novel.
I will warn you, it is not an easy read. Besides the subject matters encased in between the covers, A Little Life is a long book and at times can seem narrative heavy. Do not go into this book hoping for a light bit of escapism. However, I do think that people need to read this novel. It is truly amazing. It should be one of this year’s major prize winners because it is a beautifully told story. It has everything that you want from a novel and more.
Buy it. Buy it now.
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara is available now.