I recently finished a book called "A Little Life" by Hanya Yanagihara, a book by no means little in any sense of the word. To begin, there is a major dichotomy between the title of the book and it's content, let alone the flurry of attention it has received from both critics and non critics. " One of the most-talked -about books of 2015, .... and a finalist for the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Award." says Elif Batuman. The book is a painful and meticulous study of the pain of it's protagonist. The name of the book is misleading, making novels about depression and mental illness such as Jeanette Walls's Glass Castle and Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar seem mild. It even makes Crime and Punishment seem like a study in human nature, rather than the pathology of "crime," and the guilt of "punishment."
For me, the power of the book lies in the psychological content and complexity of the main character's suffering. The landscape is deliberately flat and unrealized, unspecified in order to shine the light upon Jude St Francis as The Patron Saint of Suffering, as his name suggests. Jude St Francis is everyman who has struggled to overcome tragedy: physical and emotional abuse that leaves them scarred inside. For Jude, this scarring is both inside and visually outside of his body. Voyureuristic or not, horror after horror I could not stop from reading the book, lest I miss anything. This sense of reading, of almost devouring every page is the way I felt reading the book, a sentiment I believe felt by a lot of people. "From the moment I picked up "A Little Life, I couldn't put it down. I read the whole thing in three days. When it was over, I felt sorry and reluctant to read anything else. I actually starting rereading it...." Elif Batuman
In her writings, Yanaguhara assaults our morals, emotions, and our sense of decency. She also induces both pity and empathy, and in the end sorrow. She offers no reprieve. After I finished the book and began doing some research, I discovered that there was a subtext embedded in my experience of the book. That subtext consists in the conversational bantering going on among the critics in their discussions about the book. I cannot disagree with Baufman who attributes the power of the book to the fact that "everyone who read the novel seemed to have strong feelings about it." Some criticized the book, either for painful content, long winded and over done writing, or for being grounded in a timeless reality without any real context. In the words of Jon Michaud from "The Subversive Brilliance of A Little Life," "Yangihara's novel can drive you mad, consume you, and take over your life. Like the axiom of equality, "A Little Life" feels elemental irreducible - and dark and disturbing though it is, there is beauty in it." Yanaguhara has certainly hit a nerve upon the nature of suffering.
." But voyeuristic or not, there is no denying that A Little Life has captured our hearts and stirred our emotions. WHat else can you ask from a good book, despite it's flaw. People after all are flawed, and therein lies their beauty.