Hanya Yanagihara || A Little Life

A Little Life must be the saddest, the most disconcerting novel I’ve read for a long time. Even the positive chapters are all about the efforts to have main person Jude lead a happy life and prevent him from killing himself. His friends, his adoptive parents, they all strive to keep Jude happy, an impossible task. Jude has been (literally) so fucked up through a childhood filled with violence and abuse that he has become totally incapable of being happy or believing that he was in no way to blame for all the cruelty he has been subjected to. Jude is convinced that he deserved everything that happened to him, that he is a freak of nature. Though he truely loves the important persons in his life, he is incapable of establishing a normal relationship with them. Love of his life Willem has to accept that sex is a no go-area, because it invariably leads to Jude cutting himself obsessively. A remnant of one of his abusers who taught Jude to cut himself in order to get through hard times. Another abuser ran over Jude’s back with his car, causing permanent damage to his back and legs, resulting in his legs having to be amputated eventually. Whereas in his youth everyone he encounters abuses him, from college on his friends adore Jude. They go to extremes to make his life worthwhile. Jude’s life with Willem is the closest Jude ever comes to being happy. After Willem dies it is a matter of time before Jude takes his own life. A less capable writer would have transformed this story into a giant tearjerker. Yanagihara manages to control the story in two ways: by using different points of perspective and by revealing the truth about Jude’s past ever so slowly. The full amount of Jude’s abuse is revealed at 3/4 of the novel; at that point I did not worry about his happiness, I was rather surprised he had kept on this far.
A Little Life is not just sad and disconcerting, some passages are downright gruesome. I found myself putting aside the novel several times, not being able to cope with the cruelty. It made me wonder if Yanagihara should not have restricted herself. I suppose she wanted to convey the message that abuse leads to seriously fucked-up people. I suspect that message would have landed as well, if Jude had been submitted to less violence and abuse. Less can be more. Combined with the fact that Jude’s portrayal borders on the saintly, the weak points of A Little Life become obvious. Jude hides his suffering expertly, he has not adopted his abusers’s tactics, his friends all adore him. I found the latter to be too construed. The level of adoration for this one person borders on glorification, it is once again too much. A Little Life is not a bad novel, it has been written by a capable writer who however did  exaggerate: too much happening to one person, this person being admired out of proportion. A Little Life will definitely not brighten up your day, be prepared to be shocked and saddened. Yanagihara made me want to join the ‘save Jude-camp’. I felt sad that all efforts were in vain.

Hanya Yanagihara-A Little Life

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About booksandliliane

I am an avid reader and love to share my love for literature. I have my own opinion on books that have been shortlisted, laureated by critics or are pushed on us by bookstores. I will try and explain why I like or do not like a book. Hopefully influencing you in your choice of books to read.
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