I waited some time before writing this comment because I liked the novel – a lot – but I needed time to think about it.
A little life, shortlisted for the 2015 Man Booker Prize, is set in USA and the story is about composing – through episodes – the life of four guys who met at college and friends for life.
Concerning the time span the novel goes from late adolescence to adult time, but only some spots of the four lives are highlighted.
Let’s begin from the strongest point of the novel, that also is the reason it is so strong and incisive, that is the characterization. Emotions are described vividly and with details, and they are true and so intense, the characters stays coherent in their behaviour during the whole story and we have the chance to read what they think and feel. In short word the characterization is truly amazing. In this respect the book is more an experience than a simple read, since it’s quite easy to “feel” with the protagonists.
This in a certain sense is also a drawback, because A Little Life is one of the saddest novel I ever read, and feeling together with the characters is sometimes like being punched in the stomach. It’s better not to hope to have reached the worst, because we have not. If something worse, more sad, more dramatic could happen, it probably will.
At the beginning I told half a life, that however I share with the cover summary. The main characters are not really four, but one: Jude, the key element of the story that bounds together the other three friends (Willelm, Marcus and JB). Jude is the different one: brilliant at school, he choose to study in the scientific field and then to become a lawyer (while his friends want to be actors, architects, artists). Jude’s distance is however caused by a traumatic childhood that no one knows something specific about (and also you, dear reader, will take time to learn about Jude’s childhood, and you will speculate about horrors and traumas for most of the book). It’s childhood is something Jude never was able to leave behind, and the vague existence of such a time is enough to make Jude unsure of himself and prone to self-destruction.
As reader we have the chance to learn something about the other three friends lives, but mainly we are drawn to Jude’s and on the way he interacts with his friends – so loyal and loving – and back.
A Little Life it’s a book I liked and that I suggest, because it’s a good book (maybe it could have been a little shorter in the ending) and so intense. I was moved, I cried, I hoped and dreamed with the four friends, I met their families and friends and I had the chance to see instants of delicate beauty. I suggest it, but I also suggest not to read it during sad times.
Thanks to the publisher for providing me the copy necessary to write this review.
* A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara ★★★★☆½
*I read this book in english