This post will contain spoilers about Part I of A Little Life...
Welcome to the first 'buddy read' post on the blog! I have participated in a few so far this year but this is the first that I am writing about. I have a few more planned so watch this space if you would like to know what I am reading in tandem with my bookish friends!
I am a huge 'BookTube' fan and I recently found the very wonderful Natalie over at @myreadingdays_natalie (instagram) and My Reading Days on YouTube. Her BookTube channel is full of interesting vlogs and she enjoys a wide range of books, and to be be honest, her whole manner is simply charming. I'd like to think if we met in real life we could share a beer and chat books and life in general. Still, we connected 'virtually' either on Youtube or Instagram and decided to read A Little Life together. It is a chunka of a book and I have had it on my shelf since in came out but have been intimidated by its size. I was intimidated when I bought it. I was intimidated every time I looked at it on the shelf, but sod it we are reading it together and I love having a buddy to share it with.
I have heard so many things about A Little Life that in some ways I was a little (no pun intended) put off. 'Oh you'll sob your heart out!', 'It's unrealistic and too depressing!', 'No one can go through all that in one lifetime!'...and so on. So, from my understanding there is abuse in this book. A lot of abuse. I have managed to avoid spoilers other than that up to this point. Natalie and I have decided to read one section(ish) a week or whatever we can manage so we intend this to take about 7 weeks. We both have other commitments with family, life and reading so we are taking it slowly. Here are my observations based on the first section Lespenard St. Also, I must say Natalie and I have not spoken about our thoughts yet so, Natalie, if you're reading this stop reading if you haven't finished up to page 81!
My thoughts so far...
I am so invested. Yanagihara introduces us to a cast of four twenty something men and this section has mostly covered their backstory to some greater or lesser degree. Malcolm (architect), JB (artist), Willem (actor/waiter) and Jude (lawyer) met as children and are now all living in NYC at the same time. From the very beginning I was beguiled by their love for each other. Perhaps I'm used to reading about friendship from a female perspective, but it really is great to read about a group of young men in their formative years trying to work things out while all the while knowing they have this incredible support network to catch them should they fall.
So far, Yanagihara has touched on race, friendship, sexuality, disability and self harm. She has explored family dynamics, poverty, wealth, opportunities and all of these things are experienced by our four young men. They have all had their challenges and their pasts are what has made them the men they are when we meet them in New York. Disability as a theme is a big thing for me. I love to see disability in literature. It is important for me to feel 'seen' in literature. I don't need to see a thirty-eight year old female wheelchair user but I do like to see characters who have disabilities going about their lives. I do not like to see inspiration porn. This has been done right. This has had me weeping already. The relationship between Willem and his brother Hemming was so affectionate and moving I had to set the book down and let their relationship wash over me. I found that section beautiful, harrowing and incredibly sad. Jude also has a disability but we have yet to learn more about that. What we do know is he has a limp and is in a great deal of pain - the cause of which we do not yet know. The depiction of pain is bang on. I experience pain at varying levels due to Spina Bifida and the impact that has on my spinal nerves, so I could absolutely identify with Jude's moments of pain. Like Jude, I am not always in excessive pain but sometimes I just need time to let it pass (this never happens with a toddler!). Jude's pain is also intriguing to me as we find out he self harms. I want to know why. I am definitely hooked.
This first part feels like an introduction to the friends' dynamic and now I expect the actual plot of the novel will begin to unfold. 'Plot' maybe the wrong word. I think this is going to be a character study and I am absolutely here for that. I want to know more about these men - is it weird that I want to call them 'boys' because I feel the need to mother them? Goes to show how much I already care.
These first 80 odd pages have done the trick. I am all in!