A Little Life by Hanya Yangihara

25334922

 

Goodreads Summary:When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they’re broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity. Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he’ll not only be unable to overcome—but that will define his life forever.

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

This is not a happy book. Are there happy moments? Sure, and actually this book features some of the sweetest scenes I have ever seen but this is not a happy book.  This book is an investment both because of the sheer length and how much it will destroy you. I am not usually the type of person who will cry while reading a sad book but I was bawling not once but so many times that I started to lose count. There are so many trigger warnings so you absolutely have to be in the right frame of mind to read it. Trigger warnings for sexual abuse, physical abuse, cutting, suicide, pedophilia and probably a lot more that I’m forgetting. I had no idea what I was getting into when i started reading it so I read this book very slowly because there was only so much I could take before I broke. So don’t  take the decision of reading this book lightly because while it’s  an amazing book, it’s very intense and isn’t for everyone.

That being said, damn was this book phenomenal!  It felt like it was never going to end but when it finally did, I wanted more. Not everyone could have pulled a book like this off but Yanigahara managed do it.  You have to be a very good author to write a book with such disturbing content because most of the time it seems like the writer is using people’s suffering to their advantage. A Small Life wasn’t like that. Yes there was so many disturbing moments that made me want to barf but she managed to write it in a way that was tactful and heart wrenching.   Writing a book like this is a mark of a truly remarkable author and I can’t wait to read her other works.

This book starts when the characters are in their mid 20s and ends when they’re in their 50s so spans many decades which are the best time of books. I loved seeing the evolution of the characters and really liked how information was slowly revealed throughout this behemoth of a novel. I started off liking the characters a little bit but by the time I was done, I was so emotionally invested in their lives and they felt like dear friends. The way the characters were crafted was so amazing and while this book did primarily focus on one character, Jude, all the other characters were just as interesting. Another really interesting thing about this book is that for the most part it was just expository prose with very little dialogue which is usually something that throws me off in a book but it was done so well. The writing style was so simple and easy to read that it didn’t make the huge hunks of texts as intimidating as it usually would be.

This book is about so many things but I think one of the most important things is that it’s about relationships. And not just romantic ones. Friendships, relationships that aren’t bound by blood but are just as important.  Relationships that maybe aren’t the most traditional but are just as valid. They’re are so many different and unique relationships in this book and while some are downright disgusting, others are extremely beautiful. My favorite thing is when books have great characters and great relationships and  A Small Life did both amazingly.

The last thing that I really appreciated was the  fact that their was no easy solutions. The struggles that the main character, Jude,  went through throughout the book was consistent and while there were good periods, his struggles never went away. I found that to be very true to life and while it really hurt to see him suffer so much, I really liked the fact that he didn’t miracurously get better. It was very difficult to read at times because of how true to life it was but I think it’s important to write a story like this. This is not a happy book. There are no happy endings. But every page was worth the sufferring.

Have You Read A Small Life? What Did You Think Of It? Did You Cry as Much As I Did?

 

 

 

Advertisements

The Life Choices Write Tag

So I saw this tag on drizzleandhurricanebooks and it seemed really fun so I decided to do it!

Rules:

Thank the person who tagged you but also link back to the original post!

• Provide a short description of your WIP/story!

This is pretty focused on main characters but don’t hesitate to use several characters for the answers if you want to! (We want to get to know as many of your characters as possible)

Book Description:

(This is super rough and like my first attempt at a synopsis)

When Leila Young, an English teacher at Rosanna’s high school, approaches her for psychological help, neither of them realizes that their past is intertwined. When Rosanna realizes that she played a role in the reason why Leila is seeking help, she immediately tells Leila. Against their better judgment, Rosanna decided to provide counseling to Leila. The more Rosanna helps Leila, the closer they become, going from friends to possibly something more.

Where does your main character (MC) live? Were they born there or did they move to that place?

Both Leila and Rosanna grew up in a small town in Massachusetts but currently live in Boston

Does your MC have a dream career? What (if anything) stops them from pursuing it?

Rosanna has her dream career and while Leila loves being an English teacher, she’d love being a professional photographer. Feelings of inadequacy prevent her from developing it beyond a hobby.

Did any of your characters ever go against their parents/family’s wishes? How did that change their relationship?

Against her father’s advisement, Rosanna switched her major from pre-med to psychology. Their relationship has been tense ever since

If faced with their greatest fear – would your MC try to overcome it or run the other way?

Rosanna would try to overcome it but it would definitely take her a lot of time while Leila would most likely fun the other way and regret it later.

Did any character have to cut a person out of their life? Why?

Not really. Though Rosanna did cut her parents out of her life for a short period of time.

What is your main character’s biggest regret?

Rosanna’s biggest regret is not being able to help Leila sooner. Leila’s regret is how long she let her mental illness go untreated.

Which character is most likely going to help a stranger, even if they got nothing out of it in return?

Rosanna for sure.

If your character got good/bad news, who would be the person they first tell?

Rosanna would tell Leila and vice-versa.

BONUS: Make an aesthetic for your MCs life if there had been no obstacles (money, geographical, etc.) and they had everything they wanted. (It is up to you if you want to explain it or not!)

This is more of an aesthetic in general

I

I tag anybody who wants to do it! It’s really fun and helped me in reflecting about my characters and their overall story.

Tell Me About Your WIP

Gazelle in The Shadows by Michelle Peach

Goodreads Summary:

In the mid 90s, Elizabeth Booth, a young British college student studying Arabic at Durham University, travels to Damascus to immerse herself in the Syrian language. Taken aback by the generosity and kindness of the people there, she easy slips into a life in the ancient city. She has friends, her studies, and even a handsome boyfriend. But things aren’t always as they seem. Soon, in a world where mistrust and disloyalty are commonplace, Elizabeth finds herself navigating a web of lies, betrayals, and a murder involving MI6, deadly terrorist factions, and the shadowy Syrian secret police.

My Rating:3.5/5 Stars

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

If there is one word that I would have to describe Gazelle In The Shadows it would be intense. Going into it I had only a very vague idea of what to expect and I came out of the book with a much better understanding of Syria in the 90s and this exalting feeling of being over with this wild journey. I finished this book in about two sittings which these days doesn’t happen that often. While I did enjoy it there were some qualms that I had that made my rating not as high as it could have been.

You could really tell that the author knew Syria very well. Her familiarity with the country bled out in the way that she described the people and the setting. It’s so important to be able to accurately depict the setting especially when you’re writing about somewhere that most people haven’t been to and Peach did a really great job in situating the reader. If anything I would have loved just a little bit more description. It certainly wouldn’t have been difficult for the author as she has a lot of experiences to draw on and I think it would’ve really enhanced the reader.

Another thing that was great was the writing style! It was very simple but it flowed super well and the simplicity aided in focusing in on the intense moments. As someone who struggles immensely with writing description, i really admired the way Peach described all of the MCs emotions and just the setting in general. She had a very masterful grasp on language.

So while I did really enjoy the intense plot of the book and loved how I kept on guessing throughout the entire story at times I was a little confused and found that it moved a little too quickly. Some things could’ve been more focus on while others could’ve just been reduced substantially. Also just a little bit more background would have been nice.

The other problem that I have with the book was the characters. While I didn’t have a direct problem with them, I did kind of feel as though they weren’t as developed as they could have been. Especially in terms of the MC, Elizabeth. She was a very interesting character with some complex motivations and emotions and I would’ve liked just a little bit more. All the elements were there, they just needed to be amplified.

What’s Your Favorite Book Set in a Non-Western Setting?

Beautiful Exiles By Meg Waite Clayton Book Review

36439331.jpg

Goodreads Summary:

Key West, 1936. Headstrong, accomplished journalist Martha Gellhorn is confident with words but less so with men when she meets disheveled literary titan Ernest Hemingway in a dive bar. Their friendship—forged over writing, talk, and family dinners—flourishes into something undeniable in Madrid while they’re covering the Spanish Civil War.

Martha reveres him. The very married Hemingway is taken with Martha—her beauty, her ambition, and her fearless spirit. And as Hemingway tells her, the most powerful love stories are always set against the fury of war. The risks are so much greater. They’re made for each other.

With their romance unfolding as they travel the globe, Martha establishes herself as one of the world’s foremost war correspondents, and Hemingway begins the novel that will win him the Nobel Prize for Literature. Beautiful Exiles is a stirring story of lovers and rivals, of the breathless attraction to power and fame, and of one woman—ahead of her time—claiming her own identity from the wreckage of love.

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

While I love pretty much all type of historical fiction, my favorite has to be the ones that involve actual historical figures. I really love learning about different people from history but i struggle with non fiction and find it to be quite dense and dry. That’s why well researched historical fiction novels involving real people is my favorite way to gain knowledge that I wouldn’t otherwise have.

Clayton did an amazing job at researching and creating an authentic story that had me at the edge of my seat for the entire seat. It’s very evident from her author’s note that she did an astounding amount of research for Beautiful Exiles so she could be as accurate as possible. I truly felt like I was just reading a really great auto-biography which I think is a sign of a masterfully executed book.

Books like these are kind of hard to review because after all the author is depicting people who actually existed  so it’s not really like they’re creating  the personalities out of thin air. I think the big challenge with writing a book like this is finding where the line between fiction and reality blurs. I admire any author who decides to write a book like this because accuracy and authenticity is key and Clayton did a really great job with that. She really made me feel for Martha Gellhorn and I loved seeing her journey as a journalist and as a person in general. By the end of the book, I was googling her to find out more. I love reading books that highlight people who may not always be talked about as being key historical figures but who are just as important. Of course I’ve heard about Ernest Hemmingway and Iliked the fact that I learnt much more about him but the reason I liked this book was that this book showed how Martha Gellhorn was so much more than just Hemmingway’s third wife.

Reading books that featue real people make for a much more intense experiences. In normal fiction, you feel for the characters, and you sympathisize with them but at the end you know that they’re fictional.  On the other hand, In Beautiful Exiles my empathy was heightened immensely because these aren’t just characters from Clayton’s imagination but people who suffered and loved. In some books like these, the characters feel like merely shadows of the real person but Clayton managed to capture all the characters in such a beautiful light.

What’s Your Favorite Book Featuring Historical Characters?