• Merit Lindén

Hanya Yanagihara: A Little Life

Oh boy, am I annoyed! I wanted to read a story of four men, their joys and struggles, inevitable break up and a harmony in the end. I wanted to identify their lives to mine and feel empowered. I started reading this book of 720 pages and around page 500 I realized that this book is about something else. Something I wasn't sure I wanted to be part of.



All the time when I was reading this book, I felt that something is missing. I can't really put my finger what it is though. Somehow I feel like it lacks depth and at the same time there seems to bee too much. One thing I did notice, is the fact that all of the four characters were somehow distant. I hated that all of them succeeded in their lives, they didn't have any real problems (let's forget the obvious one) and everything just seemed too smooth. They graduated, started their career, had relationships and everything that was just told. As if nothing happened but their lives were just a script. Many times I wondered, that why no-one has any feelings (again, lets forget the obvious one). Yes, they did have a lot of things happening and it wasn't all easy. All of it was just so easily passed. I can't get over the feeling that I read a story that was told, not lived.


I wonder, that if this was supposed to be a story of that one person, Jude, could it be more powerful if written another way? Why there was Jude plus three others when actually only Willem had some actual part in his life. The other two, Malcolm and JB could just have been some random persons. The group of four was supposed to be meaningful but it felt just an average friendship that didn't break but got more loose when years passed. I waited to read how the trauma in Judes life would affect to the other three but they basically never got to know what happened. The story of Judes past was totally separate to Malcolms and JBs. Maybe because they never got into Judes life, they stayed distant characters. If you take them away, the story and book will stay basically the same.


I'm not saying that this is a bad book. Would I say it's an excellent one? No. It is good, but I am mostly disappointed. First I was disappointed that this wasn't the "lets grow and struggle together" book. When I realized what the key is, I was disappointed that this wasn't "reflect the relationships and interaction between friends" either. As Jude has such a traumatic history, I would have wanted to see different reactions of how his friends handle and get over the truth (if they get over it). I didn't get that either. That said, I did get a book with very well written words and language. I loved the rhythm, the style and how easily the story was built and read. You really didn't feel like you'd read +700 pages. No boredom - well actually there was. Few times there was these loooong discussions about some meant-to-be-important topics. I couldn't understand why they were there as they were so different in style and rhythm to the rest of the book. They didn't offer something new but felt just like a trick. I confess, I skipped most of them. Still, I enjoyed the text very much. And most of the story too. This will not be a book I read several times. I will read it again just to make sure that I haven't missed something. But I am extremely curious about the other book Hanya Yanagihara has written. I love her style, the effortlessness of words and storytelling.



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