A Little Life

By Hanya Yanagihara

A little life

In a courageous bid to break my addiction to daytime playbacks of Reality TV, in particular anything that starts with ‘The Real Housewives of…’, I thought it would be safest to turn to my bookshelf for some escapism instead, so prepare yourselves as my reviews might be coming in thick and fast.

Kicking off with A Little Life, which is anything but little. It’s sweet, upsetting, beautiful, revealing, disturbing and difficult, but definitely not little.

It’s so tough at times I started think, ‘Can I do this?’ however I did and couldn’t put it down all day yesterday as I continued to turn the final 250 pages.

You are placed in a character’s head (and not just one), throughout the telling. Silently watching their decision-making and you’re drip-fed details throughout, either from the present or past and then suddenly you are in the future – though you shan’t be confused by the structure, it actually feels right, the story should be delivered this way.

And sometimes it reads so slowly and then at others it’s like your speeding through, like in the olden days when you could use your video remote controller to run the picture in slow-slow motion and then at normal speed.  The author’s deliberate use of this focus on time, gives you time to absorb and then continue – like you would in everyday life.

Oh and you never know what’s coming. Honestly, I couldn’t predict even the next page.

Based around four male characters whom have met in college and moved to NYC in their early twenties, this tale is more an epic for it spans their lifetimes. The more you read, the more familiar they become and you become, to the way they see things. These are normal people, they have issues, they are dealing with them in the best way they can. As the reader you are left powerless to intervene, but this I guess is the point, sometimes you can’t, you can’t save, you just have to support and love and adjust. For loving people, and friendships, are rewarding and fabulous, but also tough.  You know it, I know it and this story explores it with such authenticity and beauty.

Yanagihara invites you into the scene and provides you each characters point of view. She doesn’t preach, she doesn’t provide you with solutions, she just gives you the facts and illustrates how humans negotiate their environments.

Presented with some pretty hard-core no-win situations, where every angle or approach can be justified in the circumstances by at least some of the characters (even if delusion is the only validator at times), you’re made to stop and think and reassess.  In particular, the issue/impact of immense psychological damage as a result of years of monstrous abuse. Never before have I read a book that looks at how the victim deals with life afterwards and takes steps to normalise it.

Strikingly, it’s also a very positive book, for you are privy to some truly tender private moments which are so beautiful and saturated in love as well as great declarations/celebrations of shared love.

And yes, there is a high probability you’ll cry, surprisingly I only started at page 607, had a little breather until page 641, eye-sweated again for a page then spent the final four pages hiccupping away my tears.

This is a remarkable book and I look forward to reading Yanagihara again.