I am mortally afraid of fat books. 300-400 pages is okay, but when the number crosses 600 and the font size is small enough to make you squint, I know I am in trouble. My friend from Bangalore (let’s call her Madam Book Dragon or MBD) on the other hand does not read short pieces as a thing of principle. So, when I got ‘A Little Life’ as a gift from friends and MBD approved, it did feel a bit weird. Nicely weird.
I don’t exactly know what I expected the book to be like, but every-time someone would see me reading it (mainly a few well read colleagues or friends) they would ooh and aah over it, because it was one of the best books they had read last year. And they had cried. But I don’t cry while reading books (movies are a different topic). And I hardly ever get moved by books too much. I love thrillers and I can read a lot of books written in a language that can make me fall in love. But actually start feeling for the characters of the book? Not too often.
Hanya Yanagihara’s ‘A Little Life’, however, was different. Nominated for the Man Booker, as well as the National Book Award for Fiction, it is a simple story of four friends growing up together – starting from college when they are flatmates. Each of them become established in their own ways – architect, lawyer, actor, artist. Each of them have their own share of joys and own disappointments. Among them is Jude, a perfectly likeable man with distaste for physical closeness. His struggle to fit in and be accepted, and his friends’ struggle to understand his pain and yet not make him feel different is what makes most part of the book. There isn’t much of plot twists (a few, maybe) but it is written in a way that makes you want to be a part of that scenario.
After about 500 pages I could not take it and all I wanted to do is hug Jude tight and not let him go. (Which to be fair, is what his friend does in the book too). And I cried while reading parts which describe how Jude, already exhausted of his past and how his life does not go according to plan, wants to win back control of his own life. And his answer is to cut himself.
Or when Jude finally tells Williem about his past, and W cannot take it at one go. He gets up, washes his face, calms himself down, and then goes back to Jude – because if it is that difficult to imagine his friend going through all of that, what must J himself feel while telling him all of it.
Throughout the book, all of 720 pages, I kept taking photos and underlining phrases that I enjoyed or wished I had written down. So instead of photos – here are some of them.
I would highly recommend it. Even for people who cannot read big, fat books. Because this one is going to stay with you for a long, long time. Trust me on this.