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A Little Life - Hanya Yanagihara *Spoilers*

I'm not sure what to make of this book. It was devastating to the point of being sickening, but I still managed to read it within three days so I guess I did enjoy it to some degree. I never want to read it again though and I'm wary of recommending it to others.

The novel is centered around the character Jude St. Francis, a broken individual who is intent upon self-destruction as a result of decades of emotional and physical abuse. The novel does occasionally weave in and out of the other protagonists' stories and this technique allows for us to not only learn about the tragic events which occur to Jude (they are truly harrowing and quite honestly, horrific) but also how his conflicted self is interpreted by his friends. While I can appreciate the narrative's focus on the relationships between the four friends as a way to break up its darkly graphic nature, I still found myself tiring of Jude's continual self-deprecation and complete misery. By the end of the novel, we are left without any sense of hope or him being able to break out of his vicious cycle of despair, as his character becomes a dumping ground for every worst imaginable experience to be deposited onto his fragile self.

I also found certain aspects of the book to be problematic, in particular, the external characterisation of Jude - does someone really have to be beautiful and intelligent in order to garner sympathy from others? Such an action, as well as the frequent evaluations of Jude, render him merely an art piece to be interpreted and used for the benefit of the other characters as they attempt to atone for their own conflictions.

Ultimately, I feel like Yanagihara sought out to test her readers' patience and capacity for understanding Jude's psychological quagmires as well as humanity in general. Perhaps most poignant, however, was that even though Jude's experiences (I imagine and hope) are rare, his character still allows for a touching insight into the dark reality of trauma and the way in which it manifests itself in a variety of tortuous ways. As such, I remain conflicted in my final segues of thought surrounding A Little Life, as this is a novel which is unforgettable, but I'm not so sure if that is actually a good thing.


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