Book Review: A Little Life-Hanya Yanagihara


It’s interesting how an author can take the everyday life of someone-their first breath to their last, and transfer it to the pages of a book. Recounting all the fine details of their life, even the ones that are hard to unveil, the author has the ability to construct poetry out of someone’s life. Massive in length and scope, A Little Life by  Hanya Yanagihara is living poetry of people’s lives. The plainness and practicality of the novel does not overshadow the dark and unwavering fluidity with which Yanagihara creates.

Set in New York, time and date play no role in the novel, however the author focuses on the relationships between four friends. JB the painter, Malcom an architect, Willem the actor, and Jude a up and coming litigator whom much of the novel surrounds. Throughout the book, the relationships between these friends flow throughout their everyday life; the fights, the joys, successes, and failures. Hanya Yanagihara has an uncanny ability to stretch a character to its’ full potential, and while there are many characters that don’t get fully explored, we still get to see a detailed spinal cord layout of even the most minute of characters.

Jude serves as the heartbeat to the friendships between him, JB, Malcom, and Willem. The novels bobs and weaves through the secret and horrific past that Jude has had, without really fully recounting it until the near end of the novel. Despite the love that Jude is surrounded with in his adulthood, he stills feels connected to his past and takes it out on himself through self-harm. Yanagihara creates these moments where the reader is alone with Jude in the bathroom, and it is here that we can see the beauty and utter heart wrench that is Yanagihara’s writing.

Because time is absent, the novel progresses quickly throughout the characters’ lives, yet you don’t ever the feel the weight of the rush, because of the careful and meticulous prose the novel provides. A Little Life is a heavy novel, a worthy novel, and a must read.

This novel is 721 pages long, and it takes its’ time throughout the course. Yanagihara’s writing is minimalist, yet she provides so much depth and detail between each page. The author’s attention to detail and inclusiveness was also one of the slightly negative points of the novel as some parts dragged on, leaving the reader (me in this case) exhausted with thoroughness. Hanya Yanagihara wants the readers to feel completely immersed with the life of Jude, to fully understand him, even though she leaves parts of him still untraceable, undiscovered by the reader and his closet friends.

This novel with will undoubtedly have you thinking about it for a long time, it will resonate deep within you and impact how you view people-the world. A time-worthy novel deserving endless praise, well done I say.


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