Hanya Yanagihara’s new book, at 720 pages, is intimidating. I know it’s one of the biggest novels to be published this year, but sheer size and metaphorical weight of several prestigious award nominations actually make me keep the distance. A Little Life has received positive reviews in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and The Wall Street Journal, which all reflect on the largeness of the novel’s numerous themes.
The real reason for my reluctance to read is the reminder of The Secret History and The Goldfinch, for high I had high hope but were no more than some conspiracy implemented by a close group of people. The characters in A Little Life belong to a group of talented and artistic friends whom Yanagihara traces from college days to their early middle age in and around New York City. The themes it professes are the ones I find overkilled in literature: sex and food, sleep and friends, money and fame. I also don’t like a narrative style that observes the drip of daily lives. So tedious and unnecessary. The Secret History begins with a modest chronicle of the way that life happens to a small group of people with a bit of history in common, but only avail to some eerie ritual murder. It’s just too contrived. Yanagihara’s book remains on my radar because it was a Booker finalist, and it bears a vague resemblance to some kind of woman novel. So will see.