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Deserves All the Big Praise It’s Getting: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

cover imageI’ve been very selfish with my library copy of A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, and so I need to bring it back today.

A Little Life is my #1 favorite book so far this year, and I had so many pages marked with Post-its that I had hoped to write a review that would convey the power of this 700+-page novel that pulls you in and keeps you there.

But looking through the passages I have marked, I realize they’re too long – each sentence depends too much on what comes before and after and a single thought is continued over several paragraphs, so you can read an excerpt from the book on the publisher’s Web site instead.

Although written by a woman (the author of The People in the Trees, which I haven’t read yet), A Little Life is about the friendship of four men who roomed together at a Boston-area college (unnamed), then moved to New York City, where two of them were from, and hung out together in various configurations and apartments over the following decades.

They talk a LOT, so there is a lot of passionate, intellectual conversation – with each other, and also with other people who become important in their lives over time – about art and life. What may seem like youthful self-centeredness early in the book (which might be annoy readers who were annoyed by The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer – another long, very New York City, novel) is tempered by the overall tone of sad retrospection.

There’s a great deal of humor in A Little Life, but the compelling main character, Jude, has a hidden past, so even as people who come into his orbit are inevitably drawn to him, he tries to keep them from getting too close, which gives the whole story its air of tragedy.

If you like to get absorbed in big novels with lots of deep/witty conversation and observations about the lives of friends, family, and strangers seen on the subway, this is the book of the year for you!

A Little Life was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize and is a finalist for this year’s National Book Award. (Winner to be announced Nov. 17th). It doesn’t come out in trade paperback until January 26, 2016, so you’ll have to put the hardcover on your holiday gift wish list.

A Little Life
Yanagihara, Hanya
Doubleday, 2015
978-0-385-53925-8
720 pp.
$30.00, U.S.

Other bloggers’ opinions (all excellent):
As the Crowe Flies (and Reads)
Book Chatter

Lonesome Reader
River City Reading

16 thoughts on “Deserves All the Big Praise It’s Getting: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara”

    1. I didn’t mind the length because it covered such a long span of time, decades, and followed the lives of the different characters. Plus, I like really long books, usually!

  1. This book tore me up inside! It was so beautifully written. I had a lot of highlighted passages as well. It WAS long and dark and gritty and maybe not all that believable in some places but I felt like that was Jude’s life and it was all necessary in order for us , the readers, to really get a feel for what he lived with day in and day out. The tedious nature of just living through the day. Lord. I had to take weeks off after reading it. I just could not recover from it.

    1. I took a long time reading it and then kept holding onto it after I finished. I guess I should buy my own copy! And I really need to read The People in the Trees. I just couldn’t get past that title; it put me off somehow.

  2. I loved this book too, but have felt a bit in the minority among book bloggers. A number of the ones I read didn’t like this book at all. Glad you enjoyed it as much as I did!

  3. Stopped by to see your review because Yanagihara is going to be at a local bookstore tonight and I’m going! I read and reviewed the book back in March so wanted to check back in with bloggers I know to recapture the feelings we all felt right after reading it. Thank you!

  4. I will never forget this book. It touched me deeply, while many of my reader friends felt it was overwrought. Jude became a real person to me, and I loved his adoptive parents for loving him so well.

    Glad you are joining in with Emma!

Would love to have you comment!