As an audio book, A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara, runs for over 32 hours. I passed by it several times, but lured by the recommendations on Audible.com, finally committed.
A Little Life is an admirable undertaking: the author has spared no details in weaving this tale: establishing first the framework of relationships that form the web that holds the main character, Jude, afloat; dropping hints about the horrid past that defines him; and delving into the darkness of his continually thread-like existence. The message here is not uplifting. It is a study of despair.
The story itself is interesting enough, and what kept me engaged. The narrator for the audio version, Oliver Wyman, is an effective reader, who injects the right amount of intonation to differentiate between characters. The writing itself is fluid, and Yanagihara has mastered the ability to present the story in a nonlinear fashion, surprising the reader at every turn. Yet, I am annoyed at the unnecessary repetition of details, such as listing the characters’ name over and over, and the continual insistence on the part of the characters that they are “sorry” for their behaviours, a trait that becomes more pathetic than endearing in the end.
Jude’s beginning is horrific, and as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I can relate to the complexity of his psychological condition, however; after having stayed the course of this epic tale, I am uncertain as to Yanagihara’s purpose for writing. Is it purely for entertainment, or is it meant to draw awareness to the irreversible damage of childhood abuse? Certainly, “A Little Life” excels at both. Or is it a commentary on how futile life can be if we are unwilling to reach out to others for help? Perhaps. While Jude never manages to escape his inner demons, it is the ease in which he achieves financial success and enduring relationships that leaves me dissatisfied.
Yet, who am I but a humble reader, who cannot begin to imagine the toil that goes into writing such an incredible saga.
I’d be interested in hearing what others think.