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The Book I Read In July

But first here’s a picture of Hannah, her two teeth, and her sweet little neck rolls being delighted by sunflowers.

I only read one book in July. That is because the one book I read, A Little Life, was 720 pages long. Let me tell you, 720 pages is too long — but I will get to that later. A Little Life was on basically every ‘must read’ list this year. I read Hanya Yanagihara’s other book, The People In The Trees, and I really liked it. So I was really, really excited to read this book because I had heard it was even better than The People In The Trees.

The only problem is — I didn’t really like A Little Life. I found it boring, repetitive, and it was hard to suspend my disbelief throughout the book. Because this book is so long, this review will also be a bit long. But hey, it will be a good distraction on this Monday morning.

The Length: This book was so long. I usually prefer long books, but there was no reason this book needed to be so long. I would understand if each page brought something new to the reader, but that wasn’t the case here. The same things kept being repeated over and over and over. There were at least 5 different Thanksgiving scenes in this book. All with the same people doing the same things. When I read yet another sentence about two of the characters driving up to Boston for Thanksgiving I was like — lord, please, make this stop.

The Characters: This book centers around a group of four friends who all went to college together and are now going through adult life together. In this particular story, two of the characters kind of get forgotten about and then return at random times in the book. It takes a moment for the reader to remember who they are, and makes it hard to care about all four ‘leads’. Also, all four of these men somehow become the most successful people ever in their careers. One man becomes an Oscar winning actor, the other becomes an artist whose work is displayed at the MoMA, the other becomes a world renowned architect, and another becomes the top litigator in NYC. As a consequence to their success, every character is insanely rich, has drivers, household staff, multiple homes, and are forever taking spontaneous trips to foreign countries to ‘clear their heads’. It was like reading a really depressing version of MTV Cribs.

The Lead: The lead character, Jude, suffered every possible type of abuse imaginable in his childhood. Now, as an adult, he is (obviously) still dealing with these issues. Luckily, he is surrounded by people who love him as an adult. Everyone in this book worships at the alter of Jude — even though one of the main themes in A Little Life is that Jude refuses to tell anyone about himself or his past. He is also (understandably) self destructive, and commits horrific acts of self-harm. Yet despite being completely unable to connect with Jude, the people in his life are committed to him in a way that is almost unnatural. Since this book, in case you forgot, is seven hundred and twenty pages long, this commitment to Jude goes on for decades. Yet despite thirty years of unwavering, unquestioning, unrelenting, nonjudgemental friendship from nearly everyone in his adult life he still refuses to accept or even acknowledge the love he gets from his friends. I found this maddening.

The Writing: Hanya Yanagihara can write. I think her writing is what got me through this book. She creates epic narratives that keep you hooked. I could recommend this book for the writing, even if it dragged and was terribly sad.

Final Thoughts: I didn’t like this book — but I can’t say I don’t recommend it. I can see why people would love this book. It explores friendship, and loss, and conquering your demons. This book is powerful stuff even if it wasn’t for me. Just know if you do decide to read this novel it will take you forever, and you need to leave your concept of reality at the door.

 

p.s. I wrote a story on MODE.com about Taylor Swift and how everything we know about her is a lie. Check it out!

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