A Little Life

Are you still thinking of reading A Little Life?

Have you seen the book on all those ‘best of 2015’ lists that are everywhere, on blogs, news sites, bookish sites?

Have you picked it up at the bookstore or library then almost drop it on your foot because it’s such an immense book?

Have you seen one of those A Little Life tote bags and wondered what it was talking about?


Did you adore Hanya Yanagihara’s The People in the Trees and wonder if you would adore this book of hers?

Have you hovered your mouse button over it but haven’t quite mustered the courage to click ‘buy’ or ‘borrow’ yet?

Well, I did all that. I hemmed and I hawed for months. I was concerned about the hype and the heft and the heaviness.

But then as the end of 2015 loomed, I jumped. I borrowed the book. All 720 pages of it. I didn’t go for the e-book version as I usually do when it comes to books of late. It seemed to call out for an actual printed, physical book. A book that would sit on my lap and have pages to turn. A book that would sit on my kitchen table and require bookmarks, or a cellphone to hold the page down. A book that wouldn’t fit into my bag and that would take up a corner of my side table.

I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to finish it, as I tend to read printed books slower than the rate I read ebooks at. But once I began, and once I began to understand, I fell into it, I sank in and just wallowed in it, ingesting it, but also sipping at it, not wanting to leave it. Yet at the same time, wanting to leave Jude and his friends. This is a book that just consumes you. It is a book that takes you in and chews you up. Jude’s story frustrates and overwhelms at times, but you just want to keep going, to stay in his circle of friends, to stay in his life, to stay in his crappy apartment on Lispenard Street, to feast your eyes on all those gougères that Jude makes, and wonder at his walnut cake, to wander among JB’s artworks, to marvel at Malcolm’s plans, to watch Willem’s plays and movies (especially that one in the dilapidated brownstone where he peels the wallpaper).

There is so much pain and hurt in this book. It made me tear up and it made me blurt out this weird strangled sound that I was glad no one was close by enough to hear, as I think it may have worried the kids. And yes, there were parts that were overwritten, and yes, it is an incredibly difficult book to write a post about without giving too much of the story away, if you didn’t already know what it’s about. But it is a book that makes you feel. It is a book that makes me glad that I am a reader, and that I have a book like this to read, and that a book, these words and sentences and paragraphs and pages that make up a book, can squeeze my heart so and catch my breath so and make my stomach flippity-flop so.

And there it is. A Little Life. A beautiful book. A frustrating book. A much-talked-about book. A ‘best of’ book. A Jude-Willem-Malcolm-JB book. (Also a Harold-Julia-Andy-Richard book). A book that requires patience and time  – and space on the shelf for it is a large book. Should you read it? Yes yes yes.


  1. I’ve just started it – I’m enjoying it, I thought it was going to be more worthy/hard work/difficult as people have indicated, to do with the subject matter (but people have generally been vague because of not wanting to give the story away.)


    1. When it comes to hyped books I try my best to avoid reading too much about it, especially the synopsis. So I do appreciate when people talk about the books without revealing too much about the story. But that’s just me!


  2. I’m almost halfway through and I completely understand the feeling of the all-consuming nature of the book and how contradictory it can make me feel; one minute I want to read on and delve deeper into Jude’s story and the next minute I want to be able to leave it alone and not think about it (which is impossible right now)! A really beautiful review, I will have to come and revisit it again once I finish A Little Life.


  3. Its a very strange book. It makes you just want to read and read and read it and yet there were elements that I felt really didnt work. like the fact everyone gravitates to Jude


  4. Wow! Now that’s a passionate review! I’ve added this to my ever-increasing-and-probably-never-ending TBR pile.
    Have you read “The Slade House” by David Mitchell? I haven’t but wondered if you have.
    I hope you read many more great books in 2016.


  5. I thought The People in the Trees was so amazing that I was ready to be first in lien to read this one, but then a few bloggers I trust really, really didn’t like it. But then I kept reading these amazing reviews and it popped up on the ‘Best of’ lists so I put it on hold at the library. Your review is making me happy I did…too bad I’m number 26 on the list! I’ll have to wait a bit longer.


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