Liz Hewett

Book Review: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

A Little Life

Picador, March 2016

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cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their centre of gravity.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

At 720 pages this is probably one of the longest books I have read in a while but it is also one of the most moving, well-written novels I have read for some time.

Hanya Yanigahara is a fantastic writer and this book is an emotional rollercoaster ride you will still be feeling even after finishing. This is not a happy, light read. It will break your heart at times and make you want to cry; it will also take hold of you, strap you in tight and won’t let you go until you make it to the end.

We meet the boys in their first dorm together during college. Their friendships are still reasonably fresh and new and we see each character as a young student working towards their chosen career. As the book progresses we see each of them start jobs, fall in love, break up, go on holiday and generally live their lives. However, the main focus of A Little Life is on Jude, who has many deep, dark secrets about his horrific past. As we see him grow older the past comes back to haunt him again and again and we see how he struggles to live a normal life compared to the rest of them.

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Book Review: The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett

W&N, May 2015

W&N, May 2015

Eva and Jim are nineteen, and students at Cambridge, when their paths first cross in 1958. Jim is walking along a lane when a woman approaching him on a bicycle swerves to avoid a dog.

What happens next will determine the rest of their lives.

Have you ever considered what if? “What if I said yes to that guy” or “what if I said yes to going to that party?” This book explores three what if situations involving the main characters, Eva and Jim. In each situation or “version” as the book calls it Eva makes different decisions, which sets her on different paths throughout her life.

However, just like in real life, certain events do still occur in all 3 versions; the events that cannot always be controlled by decisions such as birthdays and death. This makes the story much more realistic and adds another layer to each story as we see how each different version of Eva copes with these events.

I love the character of Eva as you see how she adapts to different situations. She is loving, kind-hearted but is also a strong female shown through how she copes through many difficult situations.  She will do everything she can to protect her family, even sometimes if that means sacrificing her own happiness. In this book we see many different sides to Eva as well as Jim. We see the highs and the lows of their relationship and how one small decision can have such a major effect on their lives.

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