A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara

Original book title: A Little Life
Author: Hanya Yanagihara
Publisher: Albert Bonniers Förlag , 734 pages
Language: Swedish
Original languageEnglish
Year of publication:  2016

In Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life, we follow the four friends Jude, Willem, Malcom and J.B and their lives in New York. We follow them from college until they are middle aged. Jude is at the heart of the story. He is orphaned and it doesn’t take long until the reader understands that his past conceals a wide range of dark secrets and traumas. He is both mentally and physically scared because of what happened to him.
This is a long novel, 734 pages, about sexual abuse, violence and abuse of power.

At first I had a hard time getting into the book, there were a too many characters to keep track of, but after about 200 pages I got stuck. The way it was written was a bit hard for me to like. It may have been the translation (I read it in Swedish) but I felt that some of the sentences were too long which made it difficult for me to keep up. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that Yanagihara is a skilled writer. She plays with words and sentences constructively, making it exciting to read even though I had to re-read several sentences.

I’m having a hard time writing this review for several reasons. Firstly, I liked the book, but it didn’t give me a pleasant reading experience, on the contrary. This was one of the hardest books I have ever read mentally. The suffering, pain and hopelessness for our main character never stopped, even in those chapters when he experienced happiness. I read an interview with Yanagihara where she says she wants the reader to have more questions than answers after reading her book. One of the questions she wanted the reader to ask was if a life is always worth living?

In spite of all the dread, I decided to read on because I still had hope for a better life for Jude. But for each chapter I read I was met by darkness and it is probably one of the shortcomings this book has. It’s too dark, Yanagihara doesn’t sugar coat anything. It simply becomes unbelievable that a person, despite success and wonderful people around him, can’t be freed from his past.

Despite all the darkness and terrible, I devoured this book because the story floats on and as a reader, I was curious about where it would lead.


Leave a Reply