Review: To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara

Title: To Paradise

Author: Hanya Yanagihara

Pages: 720 Pages

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

The Blurb

From Hanya Yanagihara, author of the modern classic A Little LifeTo Paradise is a bold, brilliant novel spanning three centuries and three different versions of the American experiment, about lovers, family, loss and the elusive promise of utopia.

In an alternate version of 1893 America, New York is part of the Free States, where people may live and love whomever they please (or so it seems). The fragile young scion of a distinguished family resists betrothal to a worthy suitor, drawn to a charming music teacher of no means. In a 1993 Manhattan besieged by the AIDS epidemic, a young Hawaiian man lives with his much older, wealthier partner, hiding his troubled childhood and the fate of his father. And in 2093, in a world riven by plagues and governed by totalitarian rule, a powerful scientist’s damaged granddaughter tries to navigate life without him – and solve the mystery of her husband’s disappearances.

These three sections are joined in an enthralling and ingenious symphony, as recurring notes and themes deepen and enrich one another: A townhouse in Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village; illness, and treatments that come at a terrible cost; wealth and squalor; the weak and the strong; race; the definition of family, and of nationhood; the dangerous righteousness of the powerful, and of revolutionaries; the longing to find a place in an earthly paradise, and the gradual realization that it can’t exist. What unites not just the characters, but these Americas, are their reckonings with the qualities that make us human: Fear. Love. Shame. Need. Loneliness.

To Paradise is a findesiecle novel of marvellous literary effect, but above all it is a work of emotional genius. The great power of this remarkable novel is driven by Yanagihara’s understanding of the aching desire to protect those we love – partners, lovers, children, friends, family and even our fellow citizens – and the pain that ensues when we cannot.

The Review

Oh boy.

Okay, so I should preface this review by saying I bloody loved A Little Life. It broke me in ways I didn’t know I could be broken and I would read it all again even though that broken hearted feeling would get me again. Therefore, I was both excited and terrified of reading To Paradise – Hanya Yanagihara’s latest release. I tried to not compare it to A Little Life and tried to go into it with the knowledge that I just liked the writers style and I swear I gave it a good college try. I read up to 51% of the novel before having to admit defeat. I just couldn’t finish it.

I loved the first part of the story, the arranged marriage between the two main characters and if the story carried on being about them I think I could have carried on with the novel – although at 720 pages it probably was a bit too long – but then the story switched. It took me a while to get my bearings with the second section and whilst I didn’t fin the story as engaging as I did the first I really wanted to try and keep going. However, when the third storyline hit and it was set in space I had to tap out. I just stopped caring for the characters and the story.

So unfortunately To Paradise was a DNF but not without lack of trying.

To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara is available now.

For more information regarding Hanya Yanagihara (@YanagiharaHanya) please visit her Twitter page.

For more information regarding Pan Macmillan (@panmacmillan) please visit

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