Reviews

A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara

mia_1312's review

Go to review page

challenging dark emotional sad tense slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

1.75

I really tried getting into this book but it was just awful and reading felt like a burden; obviously because of the awful topics but also because of the writing style. I can‘t help myself but see nothing of the other good reviews in this book. I understand that a book sometimes just isn‘t for one, but I really don’t get how someone would give this 5 stars.
It‘s a slow paced book and it took a long time before I even started gaining a little interest in a character. There were often characters mentioned that I just couldn’t remember and it started to get exhausting and also annoying towards the end. I‘m used to read big novels with many characters and also different time stamps, but I guess in this case I sadly was just lacking interest to even remember everybody.
I HIGHLY recommend to look at all the trigger warnings and take them serious!!
For me personally, despite everything described was just painful to read, the description of self harm was unbearable and I needed to skip a few sentences later because it was just too much for me.
The description of the life of all the characters also felt a little unrealistic to me and I don‘t even mean Jude’s story, which is filled with every trauma you can think of, because I‘m sure sadly that is reality for some people. But just in general: all 4 friends are completely successful in their jobs (maybe that was used to describe the discrepancy between what other people see of someone and what is going on inside a person? But still…). On the other hand JB was kind of the only one I felt a little bit with, because of his end, which just didn’t sit right with me and felt so out of place and really unnecessary!
I felt uncomfortable facing the description of the few queer people and stereotypes, that weren’t not only out of place and time but also complete unnecessary regarding the topic of the book.
Also the few women, who appear in this book, and their prescription felt like they were unnecessary and the story kind of wouldn’t miss anything when they would have been completely erased. I think that’s a sign that maybe you could write a few more sentences about a female character, cause that isn’t worthy of a book written in the 21st century.

Spoiler

I was looking forward to Jude and also his relationship with Willem, since that was often highly written about, but although Jude’s background story is just awful and I really am out of words to describe what it did to me, I couldn’t build up good feelings or a connection towards this character.
I was disappointed that characters like JB and Malcolm didn’t seem important towards the end; one point why I didn’t like the writing is because I felt like the author made these two look ridiculous and I hated how JB was portrayed at the very end.

I don‘t know how to feel about this book. It made me cry but not because the writing was good or because I was feeling with a character, but because of the striking and relentless descriptions of violence in all forms. It was awful and I hated it. 
I read it completely because I waited for the good writing style and the deep emotions so many are having towards the characters but I just couldn’t see any of it.



Expand filter menu Content Warnings

aquarius's review

Go to review page

1.0

I finally finished it oh my GOD. I really don’t know how I did it. I do know, however, that I will never read anything written by this author ever again.

While a lot of people on here are impressed by Yanagihara’s writing and seem to argue that she doesn’t seem to be present in the story, for me the opposite is true. Her opinions are at the very heart of this book. They are why the story is told the way it is. It is the reason why I disliked it so much. As someone who DOES believe in triggers warnings, in therapy, in actual stories of abuse victims and their importance (in the sense that I think it is important to be familiar with such stories when writing an entire book about them), this story is just incredibly hard to read because the author does not believe in any of these things, and that became painfully obvious the more I read. I am so glad that some people could find themselves in this book, and felt comforted by it. I am not giving this book one star to invalidate your experiences or opinions. However, I really do not think this book handled its subject matter wisely nor respectfully. I genuinely wish these characters would have been written by someone else, and would have gotten the love and respect they deserve from someone who could do them justice. This book just feels like one big irresponsibility to me.

While the author's opinions became obvious through what was missing from the story, they were also emphasized through what can in fact be found in these pages. Two things that stood out to me, and that I very much disagree with, is this author's take on ableism and Blackness as it is written through two of the main Black characters JD and Malcolm.
The ableism wasn’t just emphasized through one specific character and/or their opinions; it seemed to be a pattern throughout the whole book. It just HAD to be emphasized how bad wheelchairs are, so much that there is a comparison between people in wheelchairs on a playground and 'mechanical insects' (an absolute BIZARRE and disgusting comparison to make), and the constant emphasis on the weakness that a wheelchair symbolizes. At one point I genuinely thought this was just the author’s way of expressing her ableist opinions, since I could find no justification for these exhausting and abhorrent repetitions that seemed to come at me from every fucking angle. Why do you feel the need to write that? To repeat that? Not by a single character but by multiple, even if we are to believe they are “nice” characters?
The way race was treated in this book was absolutely vile to me. The Black characters were tossed to the side the more the story progressed and they were both quite fucking awful from the beginning (JB privileged beyond words and Malcolm confused about his race (if you are not Black how would you know this? How can you write about such serious issues?) and at one point a very obvious lesbophobe). They felt like extras, like outcasts in their own group of friends from the beginning. When Malcolm (and then also Sophie) met their horrible ends, they could not even be described with more than a few words. How coincidental for the two Black characters to be treated like this and turn out to be awful, privileged, spoiled and entitled????? I guess Malcolm somewhat redeemed himself toward the end of the story, but it was obvious that Willem was supposed to be the only 'true' good person within Jude's group of friends. That felt very wrong to me, especially given the author is not Black herself. Stop writing and creating characters you cannot do justice.

There were so many more things that seemed to have been subtly woven into the story, but to me simply felt like the author expressing her disdain for a certain topic under the guise of another character; fatphobia (only evil characters were fat and their fatness always carefully described and emphasized), lesbophobia (lesbians are often described mockingly or are the butt of the joke, which was just not funny to read at all and also very unnecessary, especially given the author isn't gay (as far as we all know) and is making gay people crack jokes about lesbians? Why do you feel the need to write about this?)

Overall this book was not for me at all and it genuinely made me bitter as hell. Stories about victims and survivors of abuse are so fucking important, and need to be heard so much, but in respectful ways. In ways that do them justice. This felt like one big mockery, where misery was inserted just to make the reader uncomfortable and deeply disturbed. I know a lot of people do not agree with the statement that this is trauma porn, but when I read the following passage on page 78, it really did feel like some of the descriptions related to Jude did NOT have to be in this book: "Jude shrugged, and Willem noticed for the first time that his lips had gone a strange color, a not-color, although maybe that was the streetlights, which slapped and slid across his face, bruising it yellow and ocher and a sickly larval white as the cab pushed north." Was this necessary? Can NOTHING and NOBODY leave Jude alone? The voyeuristic tone with which this book was written, together with such descriptions as the one mentioned above, that were clearly creative CHOICES, often made me feel like this story was simply disrespectful. It didn't have to be written in this way. These characters deserved better.

savannahlegatee's review

Go to review page

5.0

I think this piece will haunt me forever. a rock in my heart

rsmalls25's review

Go to review page

dark emotional sad slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.25

elysedwill's review against another edition

Go to review page

3.0

OOF. What a book.

aqualing's review against another edition

Go to review page

5.0

If I could, I'd give it 10 stars! It's such a heart wrenching book yet I couldn't put it away. And I found myself went back to the start the moment I finished it, something I rarely do.

It's not a depressing book for me but tremendously emotional. Probably the most emotionally demanding novel I've read since some of the Russian classics. And quite possibly the only one that triggered so many tears, by all the tragedies and cruelties but also all the warmth and humanity. Despite the difficult, layered and complicated subject matter, the story is told in such a fluent and poetic way that I didn't have any problem following it.

If you're looking for a beach read, skip it. However, if you're ready to have your heart and soul immersed in something rich, dark and brilliant, don't hesitate.

lozzyhat's review

Go to review page

challenging dark emotional hopeful mysterious reflective sad tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? It's complicated
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.25

nicomarlyse's review

Go to review page

Excellent writing, terrible trauma porn content.

marysugarcakes's review against another edition

Go to review page

dark emotional reflective relaxing medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.5

luarentaylor's review against another edition

Go to review page

5.0

I lost sleep over this book. I lived lifetimes with this book. I did nothing but think of Jude and think of Jude and think of Jude and then of Willem, Willem, Willem. I couldn't read it fast enough and I couldn't read it slow enough. So eager to keep pressing further, however devastating, but so relieved to know I still had further yet to go, too wrecked by the thought of making the inevitable departure from these characters. I was sure I was prepared for this book... but I could not have possibly imagined what it's done to me. I have never been so vividly gripped by nostalgia, shock, fear, love--all meant for another but feeling, enormously, as though it were my own. Such profound, beautiful, jarring, brilliant, extraordinary misery. A truly haunting and exquisite chronicle of friendship, and life (though, how can the two not be the same?).

An unwavering favorite.

“Lately, he had been wondering if codependence was such a bad thing. He took pleasure in his friendships, and it didn’t hurt anyone, so who cared if it was codependent or not? And anyway, how was a friendship any more codependent than a relationship? Why was it admirable when you were twenty-seven but creepy when you were thirty-seven? Why wasn’t friendship as good as a relationship? Why wasn’t it even better? It was two people who remained together, day after day, bound not by sex or physical attraction or money or children or property, but only by the shared agreement to keep going, the mutual dedication to a union that could never be codified. Friendship was witnessing another’s slow drip of miseries, and long bouts of boredom, and occasional triumphs. It was feeling honored by the privilege of getting to be present for another person’s most dismal moments, and knowing that you could be dismal around him in return.”