Book Review: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara…

This is a tough book to review. I have so many mixed feelings about it! First of all, I will warn (just incase you haven’t already been warned sufficiently) that this is a very intense read. There is severe abuse of various kinds in this story. That said, I was fully engrossed in it for the first 600 pages or so. As an avid reader, I know that it is not easy to feel a deep connection to a character in a book that I am reading. It is very rewarding when this happens. I felt a deep connection towards Jude for the first 600 pages or so. This was the reason why I liked the book initially.

The author managed to trap me inside Jude’s head without giving me a way out. I felt ALL of Jude’s feelings with ALL of their intensity. This was the best and the worst part of reading this book for me. I was emotionally drained out about three quarters of the way in. I lost my connection with Jude. I didn’t care much about what happens to him next. I just wanted to finish the book and get it over with. I found myself rolling my eyes at how good Jude’s friends are towards him and how unconditionally they love him. This felt too good to be true. Then I was able to connect this feeling back to Brother Luke and Dr Traylor and realize how “bad” their characters were. Then I realized that this whole story is unreal. Jude himself is unreal.

As I reflect back on this book, I am able to understand how the author manipulated me in the beginning by building up suspense about Jude’s past and then slowly peeling off those layers. It was very clever. I admit, I fell for it. But, looking back now, I am questioning the author’s truthfulness. I personally feel that to be able to narrate a story of this magnitude and intensity, the author needs to remain truthful and the story needs to be closer to reality. Without that, atleast to me, the whole experience turns out to be like the experience of watching a lengthy, pretentious soap opera. Unfortunately, the more I reflect on this book now, the more I feel this way. I understand that as a reader I should keep an open mind and be able to accept some things that may seem unrealistic to me. But, to push both good and bad to such unrealistic extremes seems (sadly) manipulative to me when I look back and reflect on this book.

I also feel that this book is too lengthy. It could have been edited to end somewhere between 500 and 600 pages. I think trapping a sensitive reader (like me) inside a world of such extremes for such a long time could have some negative repercussions. In my case, that repercussion was loss of connection with the characters and the story and more importantly, loss of trust in the author. Unfortunately, the more I reflect on this book, the less I seem to like it. I know, I said this last sentence multiple times already in this post 😦

I know that I am in the minority here but this book was just not for me. I don’t know how to rate something like this where I had such contrasting experiences so I am not going to give it a rating. I also am not sure if my dislike for this book was also a result of my own sensitivity to the subject matter in the book, in addition to my dislike of the author’s writing style. Either way, with all that said, I am still glad that I decided to take on this huge endeavor as part of the Instagram #bigbookbuddyreads. I enjoyed the discussions there and will continue to follow them for the rest of this month. This book has been on my TBR list for a very long time. It feels good to take this monster off of that ever growing list.

P.S: I am not very good with pictures. But I tried something new with this particular picture. My kids beg me to take pictures of sunset in our backyard every day. I have a ton of these pictures on my phone. The one here in the background is a picture of the sunset that I took while reading this book. I feel that the cloudy, overcast sky with the sun setting and rain all around is a perfect background for this book.

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