Redhead by Night

The unforgettable ‘A Little Life’

I don’t even how to start with this one. I don’t think another book will top this one on my favorite from this year.

I read this book after a friend told me I remind him of a character, he then proceeded to tell me a little bit of the book; he explained the plot in such a way I couldn’t help but buy it—this will be in my reading challenge as borrowed from a friend, and I would have if we didn’t live so far away—the same day. Boy was I not ready for what it was coming.


The 2015 novel—a year I stayed out of literary news so I had no idea how huge and poignant it was—follows the lives of four diverse young men that met at university and become friends, establishing their adult lives in New York City: Willem Ragnarsson, an aspiring actor; Jean-Baptiste (JB) Marion, the child of Haitian immigrants and an artist; Malcolm Irvine, the son of a wealthy Upper East Side family; and Jude St. Francis a lawyer whose background is largely unknown even by his three best friends.


Ignoring the painful face that illustrates the cover, it is easy to be fooled by the first forty pages where you read about the men’s ambitions, popularity, and struggles that can only be expected from people that attend those types of prestigious universities, as you keep reading, however, you start understanding what the book will be about and the chaos, trauma, and pain you are about to witness. As the pages turn, the ensemble recedes and Jude’s mysterious past comes to light.
The first moment you notice something must be going on with Jude is on page 67, when Jude, bleeding from his arm, wakes Willem saying “There’s been an accident, Willem; I’m sorry.” He insists to not be taken to the hospital instead having Willem take him with Andy, a mutual friend who is a doctor. After the end of the visit Andy says to Willem, “You know he cuts himself, don’t you?” Cutting and self-injury is a theme that will be present throughout the whole story and it is described with such a raw honesty it may be triggering for some readers.
The candor description of the events and trauma is not something you see in mainstream literary fiction, most of the times when a book enters onto these topics the scene will happen off-camera, leaving the details to the reader but telling you just enough for you to figure out what is happening which makes this novel even more precious. In a world where we have trouble even acknowledging this kind of pain it can be hard to read something that doesn’t feel excessive and A Little Life is everything but. Jude’s suffering is so thorough because it is the foundation of his character and the book itself.
The story is not told chronologically but in a series of flashbacks, each one more obscure and gruesome than the last, although the book is so big because Yanagihara relieves those moments with events of friendships and his successful career to bear those painful ones. Friendship is the only solace in this godless world.

This book haunted me. Consumed me. It took me two months to read it and finish it because I avoided it at all costs. Jude’s life is all too real and depressing to read on one sitting. I’m sure I’m going to be thinking of this story for years to come and hope if becomes a classic.

It is a masterpiece, I love it, it’s so beautifully written and the characters are all so relatable and likable yet unlikable and frustrating and makes you root for them, but it’s heavy; Every page I read it reminded me of a past I wanted to forget like the character my friend said I reminded him of. My friend had that same issue: He dreaded reading that book as much as I did, and I don’t know if it is just us and we are just too sensible right now because of the world and our issues and it hits too close to home, but if you read it and I think you should, you have to be prepared that this is just not a happy novel.

Pages: 814

Date of Publication: 10 Mar 2015

Publisher: Anchor Books

Language: English

Format: Paperback

ISBN-13: 978-0804172707

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