A Little Life
Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2015A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara is an immensely powerful and heartbreaking novel of brotherly love and the limits of human endurance.When four graduates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they're broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their centre of gravity. Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he'll not only be unable to overcome - but that will define his life forever.
A novel of extraordinary intelligence and heart, a masterful depiction of heartbreak, and a dark and haunting examination of the tyranny of experience and memory.
Shortlisted for Waterstones Book of the Year 2015.
Bailey's Shortlist 2016
A singularly profound and moving work ... It's not often that you read a book of this length and find yourself thinking "I wish it was longer" but Yanagihara takes you so deeply into the lives and minds of these characters that you struggle to leave them behind. -- Fiona Wilson The Times A Little Life makes for near-hypnotically compelling reading, a vivid, hyperreal portrait of human existence that demands intense emotional investment ... An astonishing achievement: a novel of grand drama and sentiment, but it's a canvas Yanagihara has painted with delicate, subtle brushstrokes. Independent One of the pleasures of fiction is how suddenly a brilliant writer can alter the literary landscape ... Ms. Yanagihara's immense new book ... announces her, as decisively as a second work can, as a major American novelist. Here is an epic study of trauma and friendship written with such intelligence and depth of perception that it will be one of the benchmarks against which all other novels that broach those subjects (and they are legion) will be measured. Wall Street Journal How often is a novel so deeply disturbing that you might find yourself weeping, and yet so revelatory about human kindness that you might also feel touched by grace? Yanagihara's astonishing and unsettling second novel ... plumbs the rich inner lives of all of her characters... You don't just care deeply about all these lives. Thanks to the author's exquisite skill, you feel as if you are living them ... A Little Life is about the unimaginable cruelty of human beings, the savage things done to a child and his lifelong struggle to overcome the damage. Its pages are soaked with grief, but it's also about the bottomless human capacity for love and endurance ... It's not hyperbole to call this novel a masterwork - if anything that word is simply just too little for it San Francisco Chronicle Martin Amis once asked, "Who else but Tolstoy has made happiness really swing on the page?" And the surprising answer is that Hanya Yanagihara has: counterintuitively, the most moving parts of "A Little Life" are not its most brutal but its tenderest ones, moments when Jude receives kindness and support from his friends ... "A Little Life" feels elemental, irreducible-and, dark and disturbing though it is, there is beauty in it -- Jon Michaud New Yorker Hanya Yanagihara's no-holds-barred second novel A Little Life has established her as a major new voice in US fiction. -- Tim Adams Observer Utterly compelling ... quite an extraordinary novel. It is impossible to put down ... And it is almost impossible to forget. -- Mernie Gilmore Daily Express [The] spring's must-read novel ... Her debut ... put her on the literary map, her massive new novel ... signals the arrival of a major new voice in fiction ... Her achievement has less to do with size than with her powerful evocation of the fragility of self ... the pained beauty that suffuses this novel, an American epic that eloquently counters our culture's fixation with redemptive narratives. Vogue US [A] wholly immersive unforgettable read ... You won't stop reading. And it's a novel that changes you. Evening Standard The triumph of A Little Life's many pages is significant: It wraps us so thoroughly in a character's life that his trauma, his struggles, his griefs come to seem as familiar and inescapable as our own. There's no one way to experience loss, abuse, or the effects of trauma, of course, but the vividness of Jude's character and experiences makes the pain almost tangible, the fall-out more comprehensible. It's a monument of empathy, and that alone makes this novel wondrous Huffington Post Often painful but thoroughly brilliant ... Yanagihara's massive new novel ... is hurtful. That's because, among other things, it is the enthralling and completely immersive story of one man's unyielding pain. It also asks a compelling question: Can friends save us? Even from ourselves? ... Yanagihara's close study of [her characters'] lives and Jude's trauma makes for a stunning work of fiction New York Daily News This spellbinding, feverish novel sucks you in ... One of the most compassionate, moving stories of our time ... An exquisitely written, complex triumph Oprah.com A darkly beautiful tale of love and friendship... I've read a lot of emotionally taxing books in my time, but A Little Life ... is the only one I've read as an adult that's left me sobbing. I became so invested in the characters and their lives that I almost felt unqualified to review this book objectively ... There are truths here that are almost too much to bear - that hope is a qualified thing, that even love, no matter how pure and freely given, is not always enough. This book made me realize how merciful most fiction really is, even at its darkest, and it's a testament to Yanagihara's ability that she can take such ugly material and make it beautiful Los Angeles Times Capacious and consuming ... Boast[s] a scale and immersive power to rival the recent epics of Donna Tartt and Elizabeth Gilbert ... Alternately devastating and draining, A Little Life floats all sorts of troubling questions about the responsibility of the individual to those nearest and dearest and the sometime futility of playing brother's keeper. Those questions, accompanied by Yanagihara's exquisitely imagined characters, will shadow your dreamscapes Boston Globe An extraordinary book ... A Little Life is quite deliberately a fable, not social realism ... and all the more powerful for it. The truths it tells are wrenching, permanent. -- David Sexton Evening Standard This is an impressive and moving novel. -- Hannah Rosefield Literary Review A Little Life is Jude's story and it's his sorrow that colours this devastating, exhausting, strangely exhilarating novel. It's not in any way consoling but it is vitally compelling. -- Eithne Farry Daily Express How many times a year are you blown away by a book? That feeling that you can't stop reading, that your life might be a little bit changed? ... I felt in the presence of genius, and 14 sleepless hours later I inhaled the last few sentences knowing I had found a masterpiece ... Objectively, parts of this are a gruelling read, but such is the author's skill that the pages do seem to turn themselves as we race towards finding out the terrible secrets of Jude's dark trauma... I will be heading to the barricades if this doesn't win prizes galore -- Cathy Rentzenbrink The Bookseller Has so much richness in it - great big passages of beautiful prose, unforgettable characters, and shrewd insights into art and ambition and friendship and forgiveness Entertainment Weekly Astonishing ... tender, torturous and achingly alive to the undeniable pain that can scar a life. Psychologies The clarity of Yanagihara's prose is perfect for dissecting blind ambition, the consolations of work and money, and how these paper over the cracks of fragile, fractured individuals ... A Little Life is unlike anything else out there ... Quite simply unforgettable. -- James Kidd Independent on Sunday This new book is long, page-turny, deeply moving, sometimes excessive, but always packed with the weight of a genuine experience. As I was reading, I literally dreamed about it every night ... The book's driven obsessiveness is inseparable from the emotional force that will leave countless readers weeping ... A wrenching portrait of the enduring grace of friendship. With her sensitivity to everything from the emotional nuance to the play of light inside a subway car, Yanagihara is superb at capturing the radiant moments of beauty, warmth and kindness that help redeem the bad stuff. In A Little Life, it's life's evanescent blessings that maybe, but only maybe, can save you National Public Radio Once she has you, Yanagihara is not going to let you go ... Yanagihara ... contains multitudes. She seems able to imagine anything ... A Little Life ... is, in its own dark way, a miracle Newsday At its heart A Little Life is a fairy tale that pits good against evil, love against viciousness, hope against hopelessness. The cruelty of the life Ms Yanagihara describes is trumped only by the tenacity with which she searches for an answer. The Economist The reader is pulled along by its express-train pace ... it's certainly a great book. -- John Harding Daily Mail The first must-read novel of the year ... The way to describe a novel you like, maybe the quickest way, is to say that you can't put it down. People say that all the time. There are also novels that compel trickier, but no less passionate, emotions. They are books that confront you and make you wrestle with them. You might feel protective of the characters and their fates; maybe you feel like the writer is talking directly to, or about, you and you are delighted but spooked about what the writer might reveal. There is no shorthand phrase for a novel that seduces you even as it frightens, guts, exhausts, and disgusts you. A Little Life is the most devastating but satisfying novel published so far this year ... Finishing its 720 pages is like finishing one of the doorstop novels of 19th-century Russia: you feel worn out but wide awake -- (Cover Story) Kirkus Hanya Yanagihara's A Little Life is the thinking person's big book of the year so far, a long, complex and pretty dark look at the intertwined lives of four college friends. It reminds me of The Corrections, or a starker The Interestings, or a more linear work by David Foster Wallace. Really. It's that huge and important Amazon.com Set to become one of the year's most talked-about novels ... The narrative is transporting. -- Alex Clarke ES Magazine A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, will be one of those books people ask you if you've read yet. Beat 'em to the punch South Coast Today Utterly enthralling ... The phrase "tour de force" could have been invented for this audacious novel Kirkus (Starred Review) Emerging from horror, persistent and enduring, is a touching, eternal, unconventional love story. -- Maria Crawford Financial Times A Little Life asks serious questions about humanism and euthanasia and psychiatry and any number of the partis pris of modern western life. It's Entourage directed by Bergman; it's the great 90s novel a quarter of a century too late; it's a devastating read that will leave your heart, like the Grinch's, a few sizes larger. -- Alex Preston Observer Transporting ... A Little Life is not to be missed. -- Alex Clark Evening Standard Deeply moving ... A Little Life interrogates notions of value and happiness as espoused by the 21st century American dream ... Extraordinarily rich. The National A book that demands to be read. -- James Daunt Wall Street Journal A remarkable tale of love, friendship and the difficulties of embracing life when everything conspires against your right to happiness. Sunday Herald
Hanya Yanagihara is the author of The People in the Trees. She is an editor-at-large at Conde Nast Traveller and lives in New York City.