Review #170 // A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara

A Little Life

Three college roommates are brought together through the life of the fourth, Jude St. Francis. Jude has lived a difficult life, but had finally made it to New York  and was ready to build a new life different then his first.

Why this book?: I had to read this one for a community college course, Gay and Lesbian Literature. It was related to my final essay, and so I really had to delve deep into this one.

Needless to say, my feelings on this book are fairly well thought out.

It’s been a while since I’ve read this book, but my feelings on this book are still fairly definite. I’ll be clear from the start: if this book had ended at page 400, I would have been satisfied. There was a solid ending, the characters were happy and I, as a reader, was also happy.

And then Yanagihara just had to go and ruin it.

This book is over 800 pages long, half of which were unnecessary. I listened to this book in audio, when I realized that reading the physical copy would literally take a year. In the audio, while the narration was good, it just felt like it was droning on and on and it was never ending. Half of what was dished up in this story wasn’t even important to the plot, and I just couldn’t get past that.

I enjoyed two of the four supposedly “main” characters. Being up front, though, this book focused on two of the characters, Jude and Willem. And their relationship can be seen as problematic as well. Not only was he self-centered, but Willem was also “gay for Jude and Jude alone”. This, which was literally said in the novel, also erases multi-gender attracted people. This book was dealing in literal gay or straight terms, erasing everyone else. And going back to the four characters, only one of them identifies as gay, and he’s a horrible person. An ableist drug addict that is self centered.

What really, really got to me was Jude. Not Jude himself–Jude was a good character. It’s more of what his character was used for by the author. Yanagihara seemed to just find joy in torturing this character. Something good would happen to him, and the next thing you know, something worse than before would just ruin him, dragging him back into this dark abyss that the reader would have to read for the next 100 pages. This was so hard to read, being depressed myself, because I just saw it as “the moment you get happy, something else is going to come along and ruin your happiness”. That’s not a good message!!!!!

Final Rating: ★★☆☆☆


This would have been a perfectly okay book without the extended, torturous treatment of the main character. Already, Yanagihara was treading a fine line with everything else she included that could be considered problematic, but the further into the book I got, the worse it got. At one point, I just couldn’t take the unnecessary pain any more. I dropped the book with less than 200 pages left because I just couldn’t take it anymore. It wasn’t pain for any reason, but just for the sake of being pain.

Would I Recommend?

No?? This book, at least the last half of it, was just pain for the sake of being painful. There was literally no other reason. Not only that, but there were multiple problematic aspects, such as erasure of multi-gender attracted people, ableism, and definite classism and much more that I’m probably forgetting.

A Little Life

Additional Information:

Published: March 10th, 2015

Publisher: Doubleday

Page Count: 816

Genre: Contemporary

Synopsis: via Goodreads

A Little Life follows four college classmates—broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition—as they move to New York in search of fame and fortune. While their relationships, which are tinged by addiction, success, and pride, deepen over the decades, the men are held together by their devotion to the brilliant, enigmatic Jude, a man scarred by an unspeakable childhood trauma. A hymn to brotherly bonds and a masterful depiction of love in the twenty-first century, Hanya Yanagihara’s stunning novel is about the families we are born into, and those that we make for ourselves.

One thought on “Review #170 // A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara

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