Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2015
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara is an immensely powerful and heartbreaking novel of brotherly love and the limits of human endurance.
When four graduates 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 actor; 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cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their centre of gravity. Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realise, 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.
About the Author
Hanya Yanagihara is the author of The People in the Trees. She is an editor-at-large at Condé Nast Traveller and lives in New York City.
'Utterly gripping. Wonderfully romantic and sometimes harrowing, A Little Life kept me reading late into the night, night after night' -- Edmund White
'One of the pleasures of fiction is how suddenly a brilliant writer can alter the literary landscape ... Ms. Yanagihara's immense new book ... announces her, as decisively as a second work can, as a major American novelist. Here is an epic study of trauma and friendship written with such intelligence and depth of perception that it will be one of the benchmarks against which all other novels that broach those subjects (and they are legion) will be measured. In recent years, only Edward St. Aubyn's Patrick Melrose novels have confronted with similarly enduring power the long aftermath of abuse (and the sleepless duties required in loving abuse victims). But while Mr. St. Aubyn's writing relies on matador-like thrusts of barbed irony, A Little Life achieves its lasting effect with calm, thoroughgoing realism. There's an amazing sense of totality in the portrayals here, and in Jude especially. He is fragmented by fear and shame, but Ms. Yanagihara depicts him as a man in full. His life, the precarious essence of this important novel, is not less than an odyssey of survival' -- Wall Street Journal
'Martin Amis once asked, "Who else but Tolstoy has made happiness really swing on the page?" And the surprising answer is that Hanya Yanagihara has: counterintuitively, the most moving parts of A Little Life are not its most brutal but its tenderest ones, moments when Jude receives kindness and support from his friends ... A Little Life feels elemental, irreducible-and, dark and disturbing though it is, there is beauty in it' -- Jon Michaud New Yorker
'How often is a novel so deeply disturbing that you might find yourself weeping, and yet so revelatory about human kindness that you might also feel touched by grace? Yanagihara's astonishing and unsettling second novel ... plumbs the rich inner lives of all of her characters... You don't just care deeply about all these lives. Thanks to the author's exquisite skill, you feel as if you are living them ... A Little Life is about the unimaginable cruelty of human beings, the savage things done to a child and his lifelong struggle to overcome the damage. Its pages are soaked with grief, but it's also about the bottomless human capacity for love and endurance ... It's not hyperbole to call this novel a masterwork - if anything that word is simply just too little for it' -- San Francisco Chronicle
'[The] spring's must-read novel ... Her debut ... put her on the literary map, her massive new novel ... signals the arrival of a major new voice in fiction ... Her achievement has less to do with size than with her powerful evocation of the fragility of self ... the pained beauty that suffuses this novel, an American epic that eloquently counters our culture's fixation with redemptive narratives.' -- Vogue US
'The triumph of A Little Life's many pages is significant: It wraps us so thoroughly in a character's life that his trauma, his struggles, his griefs come to seem as familiar and inescapable as our own. There's no one way to experience loss, abuse, or the effects of trauma, of course, but the vividness of Jude's character and experiences makes the pain almost tangible, the fall-out more comprehensible. It's a monument of empathy, and that alone makes this novel wondrous' -- Huffington Post
'Often painful but thoroughly brilliant ... Yanagihara's massive new novel ... is hurtful. That's because, among other things, it is the enthralling and completely immersive story of one man's unyielding pain. It also asks a compelling question: Can friends save us? Even from ourselves? ... Yanagihara's close study of [her characters'] lives and Jude's trauma makes for a stunning work of fiction' -- New York Daily News
'This spellbinding, feverish novel sucks you in ... One of the most compassionate, moving stories of our time ... An exquisitely written, complex triumph' -- Oprah.com
'A darkly beautiful tale of love and friendship... I've read a lot of emotionally taxing books in my time, but A Little Life ... is the only one I've read as an adult that's left me sobbing. I became so invested in the characters and their lives that I almost felt unqualified to review this book objectively ... There are truths here that are almost too much to bear - that hope is a qualified thing, that even love, no matter how pure and freely given, is not always enough. This book made me realize how merciful most fiction really is, even at its darkest, and it's a testament to Yanagihara's ability that she can take such ugly material and make it beautiful' -- Los Angeles Times