Analysis from a bent nail:
A Little Life is a deep cut. There are beauty and happiness in between the body blows that Hanya Yanagihara dishes out, but the scales are far from even when the pages are turned. The darkest parts of this story are some of the hardest to digest that I have possibly ever read, and I have read some dark stuff. Hanya makes the four main characters of this story seem real, and part of your own life, when tragedy strikes you feel it as your own, and grieve for hours after the book has been closed for the evening.
Time jumps and speeds through the lives of Jude, Willem, JB, and Malcolm, taking us from their college years through old age. The narrative is mostly third person, with each section in the beginning trading off between the four characters. As the book progresses through their lives, the focus is narrowed to Willem and Jude. These four achieve such a high level of success in their lives, each in their own perspective fields (art, architecture, law, acting), that at times it can be a little nauseating. Once college is finished, money is hardly even an afterthought to the four. The exciting way Hanya Yanagihara weaves her story makes the few hangups I found minor and insignificant.
The tragic parts of A Little Life continuously crash down on you in massive waves, section after section the hue of the water turning darker and darker. The lowest point is continuously being readjusted to even deeper depths. Countless times a startling silence fills your mind as you read, the words shaking into focus on the page. The pulls and breaks hit at a dizzying frenzy that in other books might only exist once or twice.
Analysis from a sleep-deprived narcoleptic:
This book wrecked me!! I don’t know that I will ever escape it entirely. What started out as a melancholy tale of four college friends turned into a truly beautifully dark story of one man’s constant mental destruction.
I appreciated the unknown in this book. So many books these days are predictable and follow the same basic structure that to come across one that truly surprises you is exciting. From the beginning of the book, you’re led to believe that the story is built around four men growing up together. The structure is a different chapter from each perspective. Somewhere in the middle, it shifts to a Jude focused dialogue, and I love it. The author set up the book so that you were equally invested in each of the supporting characters and their relationships with Jude. It felt as if you were a part of those friendships, too, and you needed to follow up and know what was going on in their individual lives.
When it comes to the dark parts of the book, I will admit I had to take several breaks in my reading. I think anyone who has lived long enough has a past. We’ve all had our hurts and abuses, and some more than others, and this book will bring those memories directly to the surface. Jude’s life certainly is one that even the coldest heart could feel for, but if you have had any severe abuses on your own, I recommend you take a little time and space with this book when it feels too heavy.
I genuinely love this book. I learned a lot about myself and was forced to face and confront thoughts and feelings as well as getting lost in a truly traumatic story. As much as I loved reading it, I would never recommend the book. Reading this book is a transference of burden. To recommend someone reading it is to say, “Here, take on this pain and carry it with you indefinitely.” There is no happy ending to be found here, and while I appreciate the link to truth and reality, I need faith for a silver lining.