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Book Review – A Little Life

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (Picador) ISBN: 9781447294832

‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’ aptly sums up the life of the protagonist of Yanagihara’s second novel, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker 2015. In 700 pages, she examines how a horrific childhood casts its shadow over a happy adulthood and questions which of the two will dominate.

Four college friends move to Manhattan to start their professional lives. After introducing the four, the story focuses on Jude St Francis, the successful lawyer whose early life remains a mystery to the others and an unspeakable truth to himself.  Jude is very popular with his friends and at age 30 he gets adopted by a loving couple.  Shame about his past makes it difficult for him to accept unconditional friendship. An upsetting relationship in his forties unleashes his suppressed memories and his fight for survival truly begins.

Although the book made me feel anxious and tearful throughout, I could not stop reading it. At times I considered ‘the worst of times’ too horrid and ‘the best of times’ bordering on sentimental, but Yanagihara’s masterful pacing of the plot, the alternating perspectives and her insight into human relationships make for an impressive read.

Josine Overdevest