A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

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A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

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Apr. 12, 2016, 2:13pm

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara is the most polarizing of the books on this year's short list. For those for whom the novel held together there is tremendous love. For those who grew frustrated with its flaws, there's a great deal of antipathy. What did you think of the novel?

Apr. 13, 2016, 2:13am

I loved this book for the first 350 pages, and hated it for the next 350 pages, which meant I ended up rating this book at 3 stars. The book is immediately gripping. Yanigihara has a knack of making the characters so understandable and real that I was drawn right in to what began as a story about four young men beginning life in NYC. The book then turns to one of the friends, and the rest of the book is about Jude. Jude's an enormously likable and damaged character, and I loved living his life along with him, until at the mid-point when I could see that there was no development; Jude never changes, and neither do any of his friends. They're static.

Once I noticed that, the other flaws in the novel became too distracting. A Little Life engages in a sort of luxury porn, where all the characters are outrageously successful and wealthy, and enjoy exhaustively described dinner parties, vacations and custom built vacation homes. If you like that kind of thing (and a few of the people who liked this book have mentioned enjoying these descriptions) this book will probably work for you, but as it's something that annoys me (why would I want to read about people for whom life lacks the challenges most people face?) this compounded the other flaw in the novel.

I think that Yanigihara is a brilliant writer. I also think that A Little Life would have been a great book had it been half the length it is. And I like enormous novels. Both The Marriage Plot and The Goldfinch filled me with happiness.

Apr. 13, 2016, 7:15pm

Something about this one makes me think of The Goldfinch. This is not a good thing for me, lol. The tremendous praise from the fans, and the polarizing reviews it has. Set in NY, terrible things happening, and long. I'm often intrigued enough by polarizing reviews to read it and see for myself, but the page count may override that curiosity.

Apr. 13, 2016, 7:33pm

>2 RidgewayGirl: Yes, I completely agree. It starts off great, engrossing, emotionally stirring, but it doesn't go anywhere. As you say, the characters are static so nothing propels these characters' life stories forward. The "luxury porn" (love that phrase you've coined!) is something I can take in smaller doses, but not in a novel hundreds of pages long.

>3 raidergirl3: Yep, The Goldfinch polarized people in much the same way. I thought both books were too long for what they had within them (and I loved both of Donna Tartt's other novels, length and all).

Bearbeitet: Mrz. 28, 2017, 12:43pm

Another similarity with The Goldfinch is the almost total lack of female characters in large books written by women authors. The few female characters who do exist in these books are very shallowly drawn, and in the case of A Little Life, are virtually nothing but names.

For what it's worth, I adored The Goldfinch, which I found worked on many levels and was rich with symbolism. Hanya Yanagihara's style is compulsively readable, but A Little Life just does not seem to have the same kind of depth.