A Little Life ✻ Book Review

It has been such a long time since I’ve been thoroughly invested in a story, and A Little Life was worth all the angst, tears and hours of lost sleep. Thankfully, this book is over 700 pages long, which meant that I didn’t have to part with it too quickly. During the time it took me to read it, the characters and their lives became entwined with my own life, and their experiences became my experiences. It’s like the characters and I where breathing in the same air, like I was actually there observing them up close without actually being noticed. I cannot pinpoint any specific scene but at some point I began to feel for the characters like they were actual living people…which made parting with the book an even harder affair than I had ever anticipated!

“You won’t understand what I mean now, but someday you will: the only trick of friendship, I think, is to find people who are better than you are—not smarter, not cooler, but kinder, and more generous, and more forgiving—and then to appreciate them for what they can teach you, and to try to listen to them when they tell you something about yourself, no matter how bad—or good—it might be, and to trust them, which is the hardest thing of all. But the best, as well.” 

 This book is quite slow-paced, mainly because it is a character-driven story. It is a symphony of human relationships, a celebration of love and friendship but also a revelation of the wickedness and depravity of humans. It is a journey with an eclectic and dynamic group of four men as they meander through life in New York, bound together by their friendship and ambitions. But most of all, it is a story about a young man whose life is made up of extremes. There is Willem, the aspiring actor; Malcolm, the architect; JP, the talented artist with a sharp-edged tongue, and finally Jude, the enigmatic litigator with a hazy past, who is the focus of the story and the one who keeps the group bound together for years to come.

Jude St. Francis. The most wonderful and complex character I’ve ever read. I hugged this book multiple times in my vane attempt to offer some comfort to this beautiful soul. Reading from his perspective impelled me to look at the world anew and appreciate everything that he was denied throughout his life. I was overcome with revulsion when I read about his past, even more so when I realised how these things are also happening in real life.  His story is hard-hitting and some scenes are highly triggering. In fact, I think it’s necessary for me to say that there are multiple graphic scenes involving self-harm, abuse and suicide.

We need more diverse stories in our lives. In this book there are POC characters, multiple LGBTQ+ relationships, a disabled main character and an honest perspective on mental illness, the latter of which was dealt in such a raw and honest way. There were no embellishments, no feeble attempts at trying to ‘cure’ mental illness, no vague references or glossing over uncomfortable topics. Everything is described in a way that makes you contemplate even further the subject that is being discussed.

 “…things get broken, and sometimes they get repaired, and in most cases, you realize that no matter what gets damaged, life rearranges itself to compensate for your loss, sometimes wonderfully.” 

By the end of the book, my heart was butchered to pieces. Hanya Yanagihara is unflinching in her depictions of her characters and their situations, which is what makes this book so utterly beautiful and devastating.  Her writing is simple yet profound, not overwrought with flamboyant words. Yet her writing is still able to convey all the pain that the characters go through, and all the feelings that they experience together. It envelopes you with a sense of isolated sadness, as if you’re stuck in a dark place with the echoes of pain and desperation resonating in every corner of the room.

“Oh, dying”, he said dismissively. “we’re all dying. He just knew his death would come sooner than he had planned. But that doesn’t mean they weren’t happy years, that it wasn’t a happy life”. 

I wouldn’t dare to recommend this book to everyone, purely because as I said before, certain scenes are extremely graphic and triggering. However, if you want to read about friendship, love and bravery, all wrapped up in a beautiful and heart-wrenching story, then this is definitely the book for you.


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A Little Life Playlist || Spotify

  • Gun Shy- Widowspeak
  • We Sink- Of Monsters and Men
  • Shrike- Hozier
  • Into Black- Blouse
  • Drifting In and Out- Porcelain Raft
  • Hoping- X Ambassadors
  • Bohemian Bird- Grizfolk
  • Do You Feel It?- Chaos Chaos
  • Two Weeks- Grizzly Bear
  • In My Veins- Andrew Belle
  • High Hopes- Kodaline
  • Silent Gold- Pain of Salvation
  • You Wish You Were Red- Trailer Trash Tracys
  • San Luis- Gregory Alan Isakov
  • Cold- Novo Amor
  • Lung- Vancouver Sleep Clinic
  • World Gone Mad- Bastille
  • Wastelands- Amber Run
  • Love Brought Weight- Old Sea Brigade
  • This Is Us Colliding- Talos
  • This Isn’t You- Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein

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