At Least The Book Of The Year So Far, Maybe The Best Book I've Ever Read.
|A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara|
As I turned the final page, closed the book and replaced the dust jacket I sat back and thought, how can I possibly ever read another book? Nothing will ever make me feel like this again. Immediately after finishing I wrote this on Goodreads; "I don't have the right words to even begin, nor can I really see what I'm writing through the film of tears that is clouding my eyes. But I'll start with this; A Little Life is quite probably the most exquisite book I've ever read."
That film of tears I mention there, well, it still spontaneously appears whenever my mind flits back to the final few chapters. Yep. Even two days later. And I think about it quite a lot. When I'm doing the washing up. When I'm brushing my teeth. When I'm trying to fall asleep. When I'm queuing in the supermarket. It's actually becoming a bit of a problem. But a good kind of problem because this is what great literature is. It's about making you feel. These characters aren't characters at all. They're real to me. And I'm not ready to let them go just yet. I'm not sure I ever will be.
"When four classmates 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cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their centre of gravity.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."
This is the most exquisite, devastating, tender, brutally painful and emotional book I have ever read. I could go on with the adjectives, but you get my point. I have cried reading books before, but nothing has ever come close to the sobs that I wasn't sure would ever stop. 'This is the best book I have ever read' just wasn't a good enough explanation. A Little Life is about how what we're told we are by people we once trusted can shape the way we see ourselves forever, how the truest, most authentic bonds we form can survive almost anything, how recalling painful suffering can awaken the very best of human nature, and how the power of deep, enduring love does indeed have limitations no matter how much we wish that it didn't. This is Jude's story. And I'm not going to tell you anything else about it.
Just be sure to take care of yourself. In places things get so dark it's difficult to even imagine where the next source of light could possibly come from. Something that has been quite an intense part of my life is described in minute detail and rather than leaving me feeling desolate or distressed, it probably forms a large part of why I feel the way I do about this novel. But make sure you look out for yourself.
“You see, Jude, in life, sometimes nice things happen to good people. You don’t need to worry—they don’t happen as often as they should. But when they do, it’s up to the good people to just say ‘thank you,’ and move on, and maybe consider that the person who’s doing the nice thing gets a bang out of it as well, and really isn’t in the mood to hear all the reasons that the person for whom he’s done the nice thing doesn’t think he deserves it or isn’t worthy of it.”
* * *
“You won’t understand what I mean now, but someday you will: the only trick of friendship, I think, is to find people who are better than you are—not smarter, not cooler, but kinder, and more generous, and more forgiving—and then to appreciate them for what they can teach you, and to try to listen to them when they tell you something about yourself, no matter how bad—or good—it might be, and to trust them, which is the hardest thing of all. But the best, as well.”
* * *
“...things get broken, and sometimes they get repaired, and in most cases, you realise that no matter what gets damaged, life rearranges itself to compensate for your loss, sometimes wonderfully.”
So although it's likely that no other novel will make me feel quite like this again, it's okay because that's exactly what makes this one so intensely special. I'm not the same person I was before. This novel has become a part of me, quite possibly for forever. The power of words, eh? Magic. Extraordinary. Life changing.
Has a novel ever made you feel this way before?
P.S. Number of times I've cried whilst trying to write this: 7. I told you it's becoming a bit of a problem!