Reading June: A Little Life (Hanya Yanagihara), being in excess of 750 pages, occupied most of the month. In the beginning I didn’t think I’d make it, taking the first seventy pages to get into the novel. The four main characters are introduced and things were just a little confusing, which made me want to give up: I did to an extent, picking up JK Rowling’s Very Good Lives, as an interlude.
This in itself was a little frustrating as I hadn’t realised it was the transcript of her 2008 Harvard commencement speech (you can watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wHGqp8lz36c). I’m definitely not knocking the sentiment of the content, but having already watched the YouTube clip, I didn’t feel I needed to read the book too. But it begs the question – what was better, the book or the film? Definitely the video. I could see and hear the speech being delivered, giving me the benefit of intonation, emphasis and facial expression. So realising I’d heard it before, I skimmed rather than read the pages, learning a valuable lesson in the process – read the back cover, before diving in.
To be fair, what I achieved from the deviation was a renewed enthusiasm for A Little Life. This book is no walk in the park. Indeed it is quite overwhelming. The book explores the lives of four college friends, whilst focusing on the life of one, Jude St Francis, and the impact childhood abuse has on his life. This is a harrowing story covering betrayal, manipulation, survival, friendship and love.
I admit I hit a wall around page 300. I think it was as simple as that’s the average length of the books I read. My inner clock was telling me it should be over. But how wrong it was. I powered through the next 350 pages, wanting to finish but not wanting to at the same time. The need to keep reading intensifies as you go, bringing the end nearer, quicker. And for that I felt just a little peeved, because I didn’t really want it to end. The underlying subject matter is largely abhorrent, but it is about far more than that. It’s about friendship, commitment and trust. It’s not often I read a book that stays with me, but I feel like its ingrained itself just a little on my being. But it also leaves me in a quandary whether to recommend it. On the one hand, absolutely, but on the other…I question whether I would have read it if I had known what it was about. The reality is, I’m really pleased I was ignorant. Be brave and dive in.
I get most of my books from the local library, and after finishing A Little Life, I had 5 days to read Year Of Yes (Shonda Rhimes), before it was due back. Ordinarily I would be a little concerned that I wouldn’t have time to finish it, but this was incredibly readable and insightful. I love reading about introverts who take control and succeed, embracing their inner ‘badass’ to achieve their goals. Reading about someone confronting their fears and being open to new experiences encourages you to evaluate the way you live your own life. Now the next step is to follow the example – but that’s the hard part. I loved Shonda Rhimes before knowing anything about her, now I have even more respect for what she has achieved. It was chatty, light-hearted, with a touch of Meredith Grey voiceover just to remind you who this woman is.