A Little Life

A Little Life

[a Novel]

Book - 2015
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Brace yourself for the most astonishing, challenging, upsetting, and profoundly moving book in many a season. An epic about love and friendship in the twenty-first century that goes into some of the darkest places fiction has ever traveled and yet somehow improbably breaks through into the light. Truly an amazement--and a great gift for its readers.

When four classmates 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 act∨ 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cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity.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.

In rich and resplendent prose, Yanagihara has fashioned a tragic and transcendent hymn to brotherly love, a masterful depiction of heartbreak, and a dark examination of the tyranny of memory and the limits of human endurance.
Publisher: New York ; Toronto : Doubleday, [2015]
Edition: First edition.
Copyright Date: ♭2015
ISBN: 9780385539258
Characteristics: 720 pages


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SPPL_Chase Feb 09, 2018

More than a two years after reading this book, I'm still haunted by the beautiful and tragic friendship between its primary protagonists. At more than 800 pages, it's a considerable investment of time (particularly given some of the disturbing elements of one of the character's life). Yanagihara manages the incredible feat of developing a set of characters over an entire lifetime, seamlessly jumping between the past, present, and future, all while rendering a world that is eerily timeless. Yanagihara omits concrete dates or significant current events that would give context to the world she has created. It's disconcerting, paradoxical and a major reason this book is so memorable.

Jan 14, 2018

This is a huge read (800 pages) and its subject matter can be confronting, but it is well worth taking the time to get to know these very memorable characters.

DBRL_KatSU Oct 23, 2017

Oh man, this is a long book, but I never felt like I was slogging through its hundreds of pages. Instead, I kept turning the pages to get more glimpses of the lives of Jude and Willem (and Malcolm and JB, but to a lesser extent). This book was heartbreaking and, at times, incredibly difficult to read, but in spite of that, the highs were very high. I definitely cried through several scenes, usually because my heart was breaking, but a couple of times it was from happiness. This book . . . oh this book- it was truly an emotional roller coaster for me.

Oct 23, 2017

This was shortlisted for the Mann Booker prize in 2015 and I picked it up on a recommendation of a college student who considers it a life changing book in his life making me predisposed to like it. The woman can certainly write about a range of things and there are passages that are simply sublime. Ostensibly about the life long friendship of 4 male college roommates sort of a male version of "the Group" by Mary McCarthy. The friends are Jude, Willem, JB and Malcolm but the book is ultimately about Jude irreparably damaged as a child who can't be saved despite a plethora of people in his adult life who provide unconditional love. I found it implausible, melodramatic and could not grasp why Jude got unconditional love and life long support from a group of people, i.e. not sure what Jude brought to the table.

Oct 04, 2017

I don't think I've ever cried so much at a book in my life? Extremely brutal and heartbreaking but worth it, IMO.

Aug 24, 2017

I found this book difficult to put down. It shows the power of friendship and love but at times is heartbreaking.

Jul 08, 2017

Gripping but too long; interesting technique with gradual incorporation of the past. Halfway through it felt like it was made for a tv series. A mix of realistic and fictional character behaviour.

May 23, 2017

Loved this book due to the author's fascinatingly in-depth descriptions of character's self-destructive behaviors. Was able to vicariously plumb into the dark depths which both repulsed and seduced me. Emotionally difficult to read at times. Highly recommend. NOT your typical book! It's my new yardstick for reading.

Apr 19, 2017

I usually put books aside if they don't grab me by page 50 but this one made it to 100 because of the 'National Book Award Finalist' logo on the cover. (once again sucked in by a publisher)
This book needed a good editor to purge the ridiculous melodrama and useless words.

Mar 21, 2017

The book requires a specific kind of endurance to traverse what feels like an ultra marathon of emotional and intellectual struggle contained in the relationships (expressed supremely in Jude's relationship with himself). Jude's complexity is tiring and relentless as Yanagihara unpacks an insidious life story in a way that is as completely soul wrenching as it is deeply fixated in displaying the merciless power of pain. I identified with characters Malcolm and JB ironically much less than expected as a person of color and more profoundly with the dynamics of Willem's championing heart of hope and childlike-naïveté with what as I felt was a most wonderful juxtaposition with Jude's colossal and volcanic state of despair (also figuratively in JB's paintings).

I think the story sort of forcefully ushers readers through a process of emotional sophistication in coming to terms with who the characters actually are (in comparison to the reader's expectation) and carefully tours the unusual state of pathology afflicting Jude. There is an element of the story I found haunting as I bear resemblance to Jude's upbringing. This however afforded me the wherewithal to finish the book hoping all the while for Jude to be at peace [with himself]. Yanagihara was successful at creating a novel that provokes considerations of the male emotional experience, wholly assimilates ideas of the contemporary romantic relationship, and inspires reflection on definitions of happiness in western culture.

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Add Notices

Mar 13, 2017

Frightening or Intense Scenes: graphic descriptions of assault

Mar 13, 2017

Violence: child sexual abuse, domestic abuse

Mar 26, 2016

Other: self-harm

Mar 12, 2016

Sexual Content: rape, child molestation

Mar 12, 2016

Violence: child abuse, domestic violence

Age Suitability

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Sep 08, 2016

Hshswiss thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

Jun 01, 2016

booksophie thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and under

Mar 12, 2016

VV12 thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over


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Aug 22, 2017

"But what Andy never understood about him was this: he was an optimist. Every month, every week he chose to open his eyes, to live another day in the world. He did it when he was feeling so awful that sometimes the pain seemed to transport him to another state, one in which everything, even the past that he worked so hard to forget, seemed to fade into a gray watercolor wash. He did it when his memories crowded out all other thoughts, when it took real effort, real concentration, to tether himself to his current life, to keep himself from raging with despair and shame. He did it when he was so exhausted of trying, when being awake and alive demanded such energy that he had to lie in bed thinking of reasons to get up and try again, when it would be easier to go to the bathroom and untape the plastic zipped bag containing his cotton pads and loose razors and alcohol wipes and bandages from its hiding place beneath the sink and simply surrender. Those were the very bad days."

Aug 22, 2017

"Wasn't it a miracle to survive the unsurvivable? Wasn't friendship its own miracle, the finding of another person who made the entire lonely world seem somehow less lonely? Wasn't this house, this beauty, this comfort, this life a miracle? And so who could blame him for hoping for one more, for hoping that despite knowing better, that despite biology, and time, and history, that they would be the exception, that what happened to other people with Jude's sort of injury would't happen to him, that even with all that Jude had overcome, he might overcome just one more thing?"


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