A Little Life | Book Review | Hanya Yanagihara

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An in-depth analysis of the book “A Little Life” by Hanya Yanagihara

Book Specifications

Title: A Little Life

A little life by Hanya Yanagihara , book review


Author: Hanya Yanagihara

Genre: Fiction, Literary Fiction, Contemporary fiction

Language – English

Pages – 736

Price – Rs 699/- find it cheaper on Amazon.in , also available in Kindle format

Introduction to the book “A Little Life”

‘A Little Life ‘ by Hanya Yanagihara is a deeply emotional and intense literary masterpiece that leaves a  profound impact on readers. The novel follows the lives of four college friends—Willem, Jude, Malcolm, and JB—as they navigate the complexities of their careers and relationships in New York City.

Willem is the most compassionate of them and aspires to be an actor someday, till then he makes ends meet by waiting tables. Malcolm is frustrated with his life as a corporate lawyer.Though he has had a privileged childhood, yet he is unhappy and struggles not only with his sexulaity but also feels he cannot measure up to the expectations of his family. JB is a sparkly, witty young painter  who wishes to make his mark in the art world.Jude is the most enigmatic of them all, he is brilliant and successful as a lawyer but something seems broken within him.He struggles with pain and disability but does not share his past with anyone.He is a challenge even for his friends.

Their friendship and their desire to do something better with their life is what holds these boys together even when they are broke and struggling.

The novel delves into Jude’s traumatic childhood and the enduring physical and emotional scars that haunt him throughout his life. Yanagihara’s portrayal of Jude’s pain and vulnerability is raw, gut-wrenching, and at times, difficult to read. Yet, this rawness also lends authenticity to the narrative, evoking empathy from readers and allowing them to connect deeply with the characters.

The book A little life by Hanya Yanagihara

Hanya Yanagihara- Author of  “A little Life “

The author of “A little life “, Hanya Yanagihara was born in Los Angeles . Her father was a Hawaiian Doctor  of Japanese descent while her mother was a Korean.The search for belonging and the struggle for identity is seen throughout her work partly maybe because of her own origins.She attributes her initial interest in literature to her Father who introduced her to the works of modern writers like Phillip Roth an an early age.

‘A little life’ is her second novel and it was widely acclaimed critically and also was a bestseller. It was the winner of the Kirkus Prize of Fiction in 2015 and was shortlisted for the Booker prize in the same year. Her other notable and bestselling works are ‘ To Paradise’ and ‘ People in the Trees’.

Hanya Yanagihara is now working as an Editor for T:New York Times Style Magazine

Things that make the book “A Little Life” worthwhile

1. Emotional Depth

“A Little Life” by Hanya Yanagihara is a novel that has been praised for its emotional depth, complex character development, and haunting narrative. The story revolves around the lives of four college friends—Jude, Willem, JB, and Malcolm—as they navigate their way through adulthood while striving to create a future in New York City.  At the center of the narrative is Jude, a deeply troubled and enigmatic character with a traumatic past that slowly unfolds throughout the book. It has been quite a while that I read a book that had characters who feel like real flesh and bone people with ticking hearts and thinking minds and real problems so this was a welcome change.

2. The theme of Friendship , Love and Trauma

The novel delves into themes of friendship, love, trauma, abuse, and the human capacity for endurance. Yanagihara’s writing is often described as lush and evocative, drawing readers into the emotional landscape of the characters.After the initial 100 pages, I found myself feel deeply immersed in the lives of the protagonists and emotionally affected by the raw and harrowing experiences depicted in the book.

3. Fine Character Development

The book ” A little life ” explores themes of friendship, love, trauma, abuse, and the human capacity for resilience. The author crafts multidimensional characters, each with their own distinct personalities, dreams, and struggles. The relationships between the four friends are intricately woven, showcasing the complexities of their bonds and the unyielding support they offer one another through life’s trials and tribulations.

4. Haunting Narrative

Yanagihara’s prose is powerful, poetic, and evocative, creating a captivating and immersive reading experience. She captures the essence of human emotions with unflinching honesty, taking readers on an emotional rollercoaster that is both heartbreaking and uplifting.

On the Flip Side

The novel’s pacing, while deliberate, may seem slow at times, but it allows for a deeper understanding of the characters’ inner lives. Readers who appreciate character-driven narratives and psychological exploration will find themselves engrossed in the story’s depth and complexity.

1. Demands time

At almost 800 pages, “A Little Life” is a substantial novel, and some readers may find its length daunting. Additionally, the novel’s graphic depictions of abuse and self-harm could be triggering for sensitive readers. However, these challenging elements are integral to the story’s exploration of trauma and its impact on individuals.

2. Overwhelming in places

By the way, it’s essential to note that the book “A Little Life” is not for everyone. The book contains explicit and distressing content, including depictions of self-harm, abuse, and graphic scenes of suffering. Some readers have found these elements to be too overwhelming or triggering, making it a challenging read.

“A Little Life” is not a lighthearted read, and its themes of suffering and resilience can leave readers emotionally drained. However, it is a powerful and thought-provoking work that stays with you long after turning the final page.

The book A little life by Hanya Yanagihara



To SUM it UP

Opinions on the novel are quite polarized. While many readers have praised the author’s ability to evoke strong emotions and tackle difficult subject matters like race and identity, others have criticized the book for being excessively bleak, excessively long (clocking in at around 800 pages), and occasionally indulgent in its portrayal of suffering.I must confess that finishing this book seemed like a herculean task- not only was the font tiny , but the book was bulky and holding it was quite a balancing act ( I should have got it on my kindle).

It is not a book you can skim or skip through.There is the fear of missing something valuable unfolding even in between lines, so  precious are the words!

In conclusion, “A Little Life” by Hanya Yanagihara is a profound exploration of the human experience, beautifully written and emotionally challenging. It is a book that will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression on those who venture into its pages, making it a highly recommended read for those who seek profound and evocative literary fiction.If you’re looking for a challenging and emotionally intense read that explores the complexities of human relationships and the enduring impact of trauma, this book might be worth considering. However, be prepared for its emotionally taxing nature and potentially triggering content.

Overall, “A Little Life” is a deeply affecting and ambitious work that has garnered both critical acclaim and divided opinions.You will either love it or hate it , there is no midway about it.


Which is the one novel you struggled to complete because it was painful and touched a chord?


This post is part of the Bookish League blog hop hosted by Bohemian Bibliophile

This blog post is also a  part of the blog challenge ‘Blogaberry Dazzle’ hosted by Cindy D’Silva and Noor Anand Chawla.

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