Audiobook Review: A Little Life

22822858A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, read by Oliver Wyman
Audible Audio Edition, 33 hours
Published 6th October 2015 by Audible Studios (first published 10th March 2015)
Genre: contemporary, adult
Sources: Goodreads
Buy on Amazon

Synopsis: 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cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity.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.

Overview: This book left me speechless. Its profound depth was astounding; my only regret is that it took me so long to start it, and then finish it. Honestly, I’m struggling to grasp at words to describe how I feel about this book.

What I loved about the book: I think what robbed me of words was Oliver Wyman’s reading. Just… wow. He gave the characters so much life. Each one had their own distinct voice, and the one that amazed me by far was Jude’s. The way Wyman portrayed Jude was perfect. The more I got to know about Jude, the more I thought, “This would be exactly what Jude sounds like.” Even the other characters’ voices suited their characters fantastically, but Jude’s was the one that awed me the most.

The topics of depression and PTSD were very significant in this novel. Without going into specifics, the author’s use of repetition when it came to Jude’s suicidal thoughts and self-deprecation was too realistic. It shook me and even made me feel sick at times. All those descriptions were so repulsive, but that’s just how they are. Nothing about these issues are meant to humble you. They force you to open your mind to how such things are. They tell you that these are what happen in real life, not just in books, and they’re downright terrifying.

I love how the strong friendships were. No matter what happened, the four friends always gravitated back to each other one way or another. You get to see how everyone’s story turns out. None of the four main character just disappeared randomly, even though people might be prone to do that in real life. I was invested in what happened to each of them and, boy, did my heart ache.

Favourite passage: “You see, Jude, in life, sometimes nice things happen to good people. You don’t need to worry—they don’t happen as often as they should. But when they do, it’s up to the good people to just say ‘thank you,’ and move on, and maybe consider that the person who’s doing the nice thing gets a bang out of it as well, and really isn’t in the mood to hear all the reasons that the person for whom he’s done the nice thing doesn’t think he deserves it or isn’t worthy of it.” 

What didn’t work for me: I’d bought and started reading the hardcover version A Little Life first, but because the beginning was too slow for me, I put it down back down. This was when the book first came out. Over the next few years, I kept wanting to read it. I really did. However, every time I glanced at this tome of a book and thought about its slow start, I picked up another book and read that instead. Then, recently, Audible had a two-for-one offer, and A Little Life was one of those books I could get in a deal. I hated that it had to come down to getting through it via an audiobook. Oh, well.

Also, their lifestyles were outrageous, but what would I know!

Conclusion: This book starts really slow because of the amount of characters introduced, but it is extremely worth the read. If you are, however, one who does not like reading about suicide, pedophilia, or rape, you should probably steer clear of this book.

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