Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Man Booker 2015 Short-List Review: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara.

Book: A Little Life

Author: Hanya Yanagihara

Pages: 741

Read On: Paperback

How Long it Took Me To Read: Over a week.

Plot Summary: When four classmates 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cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity.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.

General Thoughts: I first heard of this book in the very beginning of the year when it first came out. I heard nothing but amazing things and even the phrase 'Great American Novel' being thrown around. I was intrigued and wanted to get my hands on it! But the hardback was out and way too expensive. Then the paperback came out and seriously, I found it a bit pricey too. But by this point I was very interested in the book and wanted to read it. Also it was short-listed for the Man Booker 2015 (it didn't win) but I just needed to read this!

It took me over a week and then some to read this book! Which in my world is a really long time to spend on one book. This might also be the longest book I've read all year and I am so glad I ploughed through it and made it to the end!

I read two other books during reading this book and I think it helped. It wasn't an intentional decision, I just had to go places and this book doesn't lend it self to being taken out and about. But it was nice to step away from this world and take a break.

TRIGGER WARNINGS---  Read with caution if Sexual abuse, rape, self-harm, physical abuse and suicide are triggers for you. This book is full of potential triggers, so please be vary.

Things I Liked: 

1. The writing was really and truly a delight to read. It wasn't poetic or particularly beautiful but it was done so well and I think easy enough for anyone to read.

2. This was such an immersive read. I felt like I had slipped within the pages of this book and was living with the people in this book and seeing their lives up close.

3. The scope of this book is so vast. It covered so much. The lives of four close friends from their mid-twenties to their forties. Their different careers, love-lives, ups and downs and family and even the equations between the four friends. There is so much going on this book and it doesn't for a single second feel like it's too much or cramped or chaotic. The author does a fantastic job of managing all the varied aspects of this novel so well.

4. The book, the blurb and pretty much every single synopsis of the book is actually deceiving the reader. And this not necessarily a bad thing. Normally, I'd hate a book that lies to me but I think I liked being taken for a ride in this case. The blurb tells you this is the story of four friends. But that is such a small part of the novel. Truth be told this book is all Jude. The friends, the friendships and everything else is just the background. Jude is the central focus of this book. And if  I am being honest the friendship is a very small part of the story.

5. I don't think I've read a book about make friendship before. There are so many books about the complex and complicated friendship between women but male friendships are such a neglected area in literature. I really enjoyed reading about male friendship and a long-term one at that.

6. Jude---oh man Jude! He is such an interesting, well-crafted, nuanced, heart-breaking, frustrating and tragic character. He is hands down the best, the absolute best thing in this book. He would be the best reason to pick this book up. You need to get to know Jude---even if it breaks your heart.

7. There are so many wonderful, likeable and kind people in this book. And for a book that is fairly bleak this was such a wonderful thing. Wilhelm especially was such a lovely person and I liked him so much.

8. You know you are reading a great book when you really, really get to every person in the most meaningful way possible. We really got to know each of the four boys and their back stories, their current lives and their thoughts and feelings and struggles. I really appreciated this.

9. Jude's past is revealed slowly and then in great (grave) details. While a lot of it was very hard to read and stomach, it was given to the reader in measured extents.

10. This was such an intense reading experience. It moves you, breaks your heart and shows you  a side of life that you haven't experienced. I really loved the time I spent with this book.

11. Set in New York and about New Yorkers, this is always a good thing be in my books.

12. All the relationships in the book are so real and genuine and not dramatic or sugar coated or heightened, they are just real.

Things I Didn't Like: 

1. For most part, this was a book I loved. But this isn't a book I can wholeheartedly recommend to everyone. I cannot do that in good conscience and recommend this book to everyone. This is most certainly the most depressing book I've ever read. This book will BUM YOU OUT. Seriously, this is not the book that you can read and be. It will make you sad. Every time you think nothing worse will happen it does. It gets worse and worse.

2. So many bad things happen to Jude, so many. Bad to worse to utterly horrible and it happens over and over and over. It's a never ending cycle of abuse, hurt and more abuse. It happens so much that after a point you just don't feel it. You become desensitised to it. It just stops horrifying you. I also didn't see the point of so much abuse being mentioned and used as a story point over and over again.

3. Jude was self-harming, pretty seriously and so many people knew about it. Wilhelm knew from the start and he doesn't do anything particularly helpful. He was Jude's closest friend and he does precious little to actually help Jude. He has a hard time even talking to Jude about it. I found this so frustrating and slightly hard to digest. One of the people who were privy to Jude's self-harm was a doctor- Andy- and even he does nothing. He threatens Jude with psych eval but that's it. Nothing concrete or helpful is ever really done. These are all very, highly educated and evolved people yet they don't see the harm in Jude's action and how fatal they can be. Frustrating!

4. As much as I enjoyed getting to know Jude...I also had a very hard time understanding him. So much of what he did and how he reacted and treated people baffled me. And so much he put up with was just...odd!

5. The odds of Jude meeting only assholes throughout his life was just a little too bizarre. Like seriously how can everyone in his life till he was 15 been an abusive asshole?! Pretty much every single man he met wanted to use and abuse him. Every one of them! What are the odds?!

Rating: 4/5

This is an incredible read. And I recommend it highly, yet cautiously. Read it knowing there is some difficult issues in this book. Read it when you are ready, really ready to read something difficult and dark.

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