A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara: a flawed work of genius

This is a very powerful story and very powerful writing, with a good range of character viewpoints – almost Dickensian in fact, although the focus is purely on the rich and talented. The trouble with it is that it’s about 150 pages or so too long – a lot of Jude’s (terribly tragic) story needed to be cut as it has too much repetition and misery in it which weakens the tragic effect. Indeed, after a while, Jude’s utter refusal to get professional help for his very understandable mental health problems becomes selfish and irritating. It was also unfortunate that the too intense focus on Jude means we lose out on the delight of the other characters’ voices – I missed the middle years of JB and Malcolm especially.

There are however some achingly lovely turning points, and I was particularly struck by the negative and positive balance of the ‘what if’ scenario, i.e. what if we’d never met the horrible person who hurt us, as set against what if we’d never met the wonderful person who loves us – a good philosophy to ponder. So, in spite of obvious flaws, this book is still in my opinion a work of genius and I doubt I’ll read anything better this year.

9 out of 10

Anne Brooke Books

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