Report on A Little Life

by hanya yanagihara

As always the spirit of discussion rises above the apparent literary quality of the book discussed. In this case, the literary quality is actually not in question and seemed to be generally respected and admired.
However, there was rather a divided house around A Little Life.
This was not an easy novel – whether by content and issues raised or by literary delivery. Gender of the author was raised in terms of her ability to voice appropriately the characters portrayed, their feelings, their natures and
With only one member completing the novel we had varied impressions and opinions and in fairness, I must state that I was a deliberate non-finisher. One of the first selected pieces that I have found myself facing as such. However, there were shared opinions amongst those in this position where self-indulgent and miserable were terms applied to the characters and the tale overall. Corolorarily the members expressed a specific appreciation for the tales as told and fascination to see it out and were readily engaged by it. However and apologies to Jim as he stated ‘ finished because was curious whether anything would happen’.
I believe that I captured the intent of why this novel was recommended to us – ‘How do men react when reading about vulnerability in men?’ (I think I have Orla in that do I, Brian?)
There was some discontent expressed in terms of trying to keep track of characters certainly at the outset. Additionally, a sense that the characters in this novel exist in their own bubble – it’s not set in time or place really but within a semi-detached ecosystem.
I did not gain a sense that anyone had any great empathy for any of the characters – and in fact whether there was any respect, sympathy, empathy for Jude in particular and great question around how and why any characters in the novel had of the same for him – and a strange fascination with why characters did raising questions of a sense of appreciation of the masculine mindset in that of the author.
There were some very intriguing questions raised to how we judge a novel – if a man writing about women – how well does he appreciate gender identity and in this case how has the author captured this same alternated sense of gender.
Nonetheless, there was an appreciation of the quality of narrative detail and creation of a sense of character and atmosphere. As Mike stated – there was a very appreciated rhythm of storytelling that engaged with him and certainly carried through what was a significant magnitude of a novel.

Great discussion. Marks were enough to carry if over the line for a better than 5 finish – 5.5 on the aggregate actually with a 7.5, 5.0, 3.5, 7.5 and 4 across the board. Others welcome to send along their own thoughts and scores should they wish.

The chosen read for July is The Silk Roads: A New History of the World.

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