I’ve had a lot of fun with these online reading groups in the past so I immediately signed up when Scott from Me and My Big Mouth proposed a social reading group for Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life. At 720 pages it’s quite an unwieldy tome and I’d heard elsewhere that it’s hard to get into – so you can see why I’d find the idea of being able to read along with other people appealing!
I thought as I read it might be fun to post my thoughts on here in addition to Scott’s blog…so here we go! And of course you can also join in by visiting his blog here: http://meandmybigmouth.typepad.com/
But these were days of self-fulfillment, where settling for something that was not quite your first choice of a life seemed weak-willed and ignoble.
In part 1 of A Little Life – ‘Lispenard Street’ – we’re introduced to our main cast: rich kid architect Malcolm, JB – the upcoming artist with a superiority complex, nice guy and struggling actor Willem, and tortured lawyer Jude. All of them have their sights set on something more than their current lives.
At the beginning of the book the latter pair of characters are just moving into a rundown apartment (but one they can call their own). It’s a little difficult to describe the first part because it’s more about getting to know the characters at this stage. For instance, Yanagihara paints a somber picture of Willem’s past which is defined by his brother’s death and his practically non-existent relationship with his parents.
After just 80 or so pages I don’t really have any strong feelings on A Little Life but I’m enjoying it so far. The writing itself doesn’t stand out to me yet, but I think it’s the kind of story you get sucked into as time goes on. I like the skillful way in which Yanagihara seamlessly jumps around between the present day and the characters’ pasts – it leaves you feeling intimate with the characters’ lives pretty quickly. In fact, you’re so wrapped up with them it’s a little difficult to keep track of anyone else!
Regarding the characters themselves, it’s a mixed bunch. I find JB highly unlikable (I hope it’s intentional) because he seems to harbour unfounded feelings of entitlement. Malcolm is a bit boring (too stable?) compared to his friends and I find Willem charming (but he’s supposed to be). Then there’s stoic Jude. Yanagihara keeps hinting at something menacing from his past – perhaps the cause of the crippling pain he keeps getting in his legs – that seems to trigger his depression.
So while it’s definitely not a light-hearted read it is easier to get into than I thought it would be! At the moment I’m just looking forward to finding out more about Jude, both in the past and present. I imagine he’s going to take center stage as time goes on.