A Little Life

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Author: Hanya Yanagihara
Publisher: Pan MacMillan (Pp 720)

On the onset, Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life may seem like just another long winding story. But let the number of pages not deceive you. It starts off as a merry tale of four friends from college – Jean- Baptiste (JB), an artist of Haitian origin, Malcolm, an architect, Wileim, an actor and finally Jude St. Francis, a lawyer.

The protagonist of the book is Jude who cannot let anyone know about what he really is. The scars on his body are covered by his long sleeved shirts and his pain is masked by his silence and loneliness. Haunted by a traumatic past, Jude’s mirror is his best friend before which he expresses his true feelings, most of the time, sorrow. Trapped in a decaying body that he hates, he grapples with a life that is full of disappointments, complicated relationships and yet bears a hope of survival.

The author shines at every juncture by way of aptly describing each character’s life. Note the irony when Jude wonders if his life is like the mathematical ‘Axiom of Everything’ but his favourite is the ‘Axiom of Nothing’. Or how JB claims ‘Ambition is his religion’.

While one is sucked into Jude’s life, yet the characters shine. The element of friendship remains a mute witness to Jude’s sufferings. Wileim never once questions Jude’s attempts at cutting himself as a friend would, but he also understands and respects his decision to guard his secrets. A Little Life is an experience in itself wherein every possible emotion and relationship has been beautifully etched by the author.

– Janani Rajeswari S

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