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Publisher's Summary

A novel of extraordinary intelligence and heart, a masterful depiction of heartbreak and a dark and haunting examination of the tyranny of experience and memory. Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2015.

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara is an immensely powerful and heartbreaking novel of brotherly love and the limits of human endurance. 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cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their centre of gravity.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.

©2015 Hanya Yanagihara (P)2015 Pan Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Critic Reviews

"In person Yanagihara is breezily intellectual; all bright red lipstick, sparkly jewellery and cobalt-blue heels. And yet A Little Life has at its heart a darkness so profound you wonder both where it came from and how she mustered the courage to confront it…She is, she says, very much the sort of person who walks past strangely located doors or evocatively seedy windows and immediately wonders what lives exist behind them. For Yanagihara, you feel, they’re more likely to be damaged than not." (Alison Roberts, Evening Standard)

What listeners say about A Little Life

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A beautifully written tale of four friends

I loved this book so much. It's long, but I just couldn't stop listening to it and had it finished in no time. A previous reviewer put it perfectly; it is harrowing.
As a warning it does detail themes of just about every type of abuse, from spousal abuse to child abuse to self harm.
The narration is easy to listen to, a small criticism in that at times I wasn't sure who was talking in conversation as the inflections and tones for the characters are pretty similar.
It is a beautifully written, heart warming yet heartbreaking book, and one that will stay with me for a long time.

6 people found this helpful

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Loved it at first, then hated it.

I liked the characters at first but got tired after so many pages during which they failed to develop. I also couldn't stomach the extensively detailed cruelty so regularly meted out to the main character, who after a while lost credibility in my opinion. I gave up half way and would return the book for exchange or refund if I had the option.

7 people found this helpful

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  • RCF
  • 07-02-2016

Bloated and sentimental

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone seeking something that gets to the heart of male relationships, as promised, as this is so clearly written by a woman who is imagining what men feel.

Any additional comments?

At 34 hours in length, this book is about 20 hours too long. The editor in me was mentally slashing it down to a more meaningful and succinct length. There is a touch of the precocious adolescent about the writing -- there is talent in there for sure, but the overblown descriptive style is so laboured, so indulgent, that it veers into the unlikely and ultimately, unnecessary.

Too long, too sentimental and frankly too extreme. The abject treatment of Jude is utterly excessive, whilst the trite imaginings of his and his friends' successful adult lives is utterly fanciful. None of these characters, though drawn out in agonising details, feel like real people.

9 people found this helpful

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Not as beautiful and moving as I expected

I had heard good reviews of this book on ABCs book club show. It was long and morbidly depressing. I found the dialogue repetitive and forced. It does deal with some interesting issues around relationships and the effects of trauma; however this was not the book for me. I knew this after about 10 hours listening but had to preserve as I had already given it so much time. I have a pretty high tolerance for drama and heavy topics but apparently not high enough for this book!

2 people found this helpful

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  • Bec
  • 18-02-2016

Wonderful performance and book

I loved Oliver Wyman's narration of this profoundly human story. His characters were complex and consistent and perfect to my ears.
The story itself, harrowing, sad, funny occasionally, but mostly very very human. I loved every minute of it.

2 people found this helpful

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Not Alone

Great read/listen you are completely drawn into this story it touched my soul. Thank you

1 person found this helpful

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Could do with some good editing

This was a good book but it was over written and some proper editing would have reduced the length without taking away from the story.

1 person found this helpful

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Will make you cry more than once

I was captivate throughout the book. Each character came alive to the point I wondered, where these real people? Magnificent book, never have I wanted to pull a character out of a book more than I did Jude.

1 person found this helpful

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The best.. and worst book.. of all time

What other book might you compare A Little Life to, and why?

There is no comparison for this incredible book. It has haunted me ... I doubt I will ever read anything like this again.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I cried. A lot. This book moved me. Unspeakably and unashamedly. An incredible, but deeply dark book - I highly recommend it, but read it with caution. There are some instances where I had to shut it off, and play loud music, just to drown it out. However it was so beautiful, and so touching, it is such a brilliant book.

Any additional comments?

I hated the narrator at first. He had a very strange old cowboy, Clint Eastwood sound, it almost put me off. Toward the end, I loved him. He made the book even more endearing, so stick with it!

1 person found this helpful

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Magnificent

Horrific and tender at the same time. Incredibly moving, a story that keeps you riveted till the last word.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Amrit Daswaney
  • 02-08-2017

Heartbreakingly excellent.

This is by some distance the best book I've heard in 2017. Performance and story.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Linda
  • 20-07-2017

compelling

heartbreaking and thought-provoking. the reader was excellent. sorry to see it end. anyrhing else is a spoiler

1 person found this helpful

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  • Ruth
  • 13-03-2016

Recommend you take Zoloft with this

Any additional comments?

Clearly a well written novel but if you're not clinically depressed before you start you will be by the end of it........ or even a third of the way through.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 31-08-2021

Devastating

It took me some time to get into this book, but when I did I was looking for every opportunity to listen. This story is devastating and beautifully told.

The performance was brilliant. I found myself looking for more books narrated by Oliver. He's ability to portray emotion and subtle character difference greatly contributed to my enjoyment of this book.

I highly recommended A Little Life if you are open to the unease of this tragic story.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 30-11-2020

Oh my dear heart

Utterly unforgettable. The shock surprise of kindness and then cruelty and back again. Probably the best story I have ever listened to and I am so glad they chose a narrator worthy of this amazing novel.

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  • Karen Sebire
  • 07-10-2020

There are times when this shouldn’t be listened to while driving

The narrator did an amazing job of reading this in a way that the characters could be visualised, in their movements, their speaking, their feelings.

A deeply moving story of tragedy, unfairness, guilt, shame, mental health, child abuse, overcoming challenge, friendship, love, achievement in the face of adversity, of hope and hopelessness. I loved all of it. Worth the close to 33 hours. I am now considering listening to it again having finished it just this morning. I suspect I may hear different things second time through.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 19-05-2020

Spectacular indeed

I find myself regularly getting to attached to characters and that made ‘A Little Life’ especially heartbreaking. I caught myself thinking about the book days after finishing it, Jude in particular. I will definitely revisit it.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 24-06-2019

Slow

Slow and Monotonous
The extended use of 'he' often left me wondering which person was being referred to for a number of minutes. The numerous characters ... many of them on the periphery added to my disconnection to the novel. The most distressing part of this novel is the complete hopelessness of change. The narrator did not have the ability to portray the different characters effectively. All four on the main characters sounded the same.
Definately not recommended

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  • Peter
  • 08-01-2019

A very deep book.

I found the book easy and at times very hard to listen to. The story is very deep with many confronting layers. I cried at times and felt happy at other times. An astoundingly well written book.
Highly recommend reading.

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  • Clemo
  • 13-08-2017

If you like a victim

Awe inspiring recount of a horrific child abuse by the Catholic Church, their unaccountability, pedophilia and grooming. The reader really feels for this poor child who grows up to be very successful except in coming to terms with his past, the injuries and confused somewhat misplaced attachments formed in later life.
Went on for a bit too long, perhaps a case of having too many enablers

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  • Jenny
  • 05-01-2016

Deeply disturbing and yet i couldn't stop reading

This book isn't for everyone and there were times when I had to put it down because the violence was so graphic, but I was compelled by it and felt like I'd lost something when it ended. There are plot holes and developments that don't ring true, but for all that the story surged forward. It's a hard one to recommend, given the lack of redemption, the violence, the relentlessness of suffering, but it's an engrossing story and a totally immersive experience.

22 people found this helpful

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  • J Forrester
  • 27-01-2016

Devastating but brilliant

This book is both one of the best books I've read for ages and completely awful! The story is totally compelling and the characters are real and memorable and, in many cases, wonderful. But you will need therapy and/or a duvet day or two to get over the trauma of reading it. If you think you've read the most upsetting part, you are wrong. There is much worse to come. I think relentless is the best way to describe it. I loved it and I would recommend it, but don't say I didn't warn you.

31 people found this helpful

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  • Tilla van Vuuren
  • 29-07-2017

Exhausting and difficult read.

This books grips one from the start, but from about halfway through, I thought I had never read repetition like this before. It was as if the main character, Jude's constant stream of thoughts had become too much, too repetitive. I have never read the phrase "I am sorry so many times in one book.
The writer, Hanya Yanigihara , was over indulging in her writing, her story. The 720 pages could have been cut by at least 200 pages.
An exhausting and difficult book to read and also to listen to on audio books.

12 people found this helpful

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  • Mr
  • 16-11-2016

Don't listen if you need picking up

I found this book quite tough going, it is a pretty depressing subject matter and the tone of the narrator seems to amplify this. I found I was drifting off thinking of other things rather than listening to the book.

Still, I made it to the end, just.

10 people found this helpful

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  • R. J. Gladden
  • 19-08-2016

Relentlessly depressing

After investing 30 hours of my life listening to this book, I finally realised it was never going to get any better, that there was never going to be a redeeming moment when it was going to come together and Jude would finally get the moment he deserved. It just went on and on and on and rarely in all my life have I come across anyone who has been so ill used in the whole of their life.

Needless to say, I didn't finish the book and was really sorry I started it.

21 people found this helpful

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  • jo
  • 01-04-2020

Painful listening to a painful story

I cannot understand why this book is so long. It’s painful to say the least but lacks poignancy for the most part. I cannot understand Judes relationship with Howard, after all those years together, did he not feel Howard deserved some warmth and connection? The women in this book may as well not be there and why the hell did Jude trust that abusive guy, I can’t remember his name because I finished it a couple of months ago. He was adamant throughout his teenage life, in spite of having wonderful, sometimes flawed but not abusive relationships with his close friends. I can’t understand his rejection of the artist guy because it was on the basis of stupid behaviour which happened when he was under the influence of DRUGS. He was not in control. Too long by far. And, we needed to have more reference to why all these people loved Jude. The story of Judes abuse is heartbreaking and left me on the edge, but other than that I didn’t like it. I’m sorry.............

7 people found this helpful

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  • bookylady
  • 01-01-2016

Shocking, heartbreaking, brilliant.

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

I would recommend this book but with the proviso that it is a book that will possibly upset you, shock you, horrify you. But it will grab you by the throat and not let go until the last page. And even then it will haunt you for a long time. It is not a book that you can listen to quickly and is best listened to in long stretches, concentrating on all the nuances and detailed layers of character and plot.

What was one of the most memorable moments of A Little Life?

There are too many moments, many of them brutal and shocking, to mention. This story is complicated and told from more than one viewpoint and is a tour de force of visceral writing. I can still see many of the pivotal moments playing out in my head. For me it was a very ' visual' story.

Which character – as performed by Oliver Wyman – was your favourite?

Oliver Wyman is a terrific, gifted narrator and he managed to make every character come alive. Jude, the main protagonist, was believable and I became totally immersed in his story. But for me the character who caught myattention the most was Willem, Jude's best friend, protector and partner. He was the epitome of what true friendship should be and I cried for him, laughed with him, rooted for him, empathised with him and all because of the way in which the narrator portrayed him.

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

One little life, four huge hearts.

Any additional comments?

This is a story of love, friendship, sexuality, relationships, culture, disability, discrimination and abuse (of all descriptions) and all tied up in the lives of four men who meet at a small American college. They remain friends for the rest of their lives, with various ups and downs, and forge bonds that see them through the need to support Jude, and the mysteries that surround his early life. It is a fantastic read, one that will make you laugh and cry, one that will make you dread the next sentence, one that will make you flinch and question what you know about people and what it means to be human.
I will definitely listen to this again. One of my top five books of 2015.

17 people found this helpful

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  • Jools
  • 26-11-2015

Wow!!

Fantastic book, but quite harrowing and difficult to listen to in places. The story flowed beautifully, and although it was a very long book, still I didn't want it to end, and could have listened for another 10 hours quite easily.
The narrator can make or break an audio book for me, and this one definitely made it.

16 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • sally
  • 28-12-2016

Just not for me.

Too long and I found myself becoming more and more irritated by the 'goodness 'of the characters and annoyed by the over use of 'Im sorry. I'm so sorry' .. also didn't buy the Jude story really. But it was beautifully crafted and read really well. Sure lots of people will love it

9 people found this helpful

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Profile Image for R O N UMUNNA
  • R O N UMUNNA
  • 06-01-2020

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry”. If I have to hear this one more time, I fear I’ll retch!!!

I’m not sure if I’ve been listening the same book as others who have given it such rave reviews. Thank heavens Marlon James won the 2015 Man Booker Prize over this tripe.

I rolled my eyes so many times I saw my hippocampus.

This story is as unbelievable as it is repetitive and banal. It is unanchored in history despite following the characters for several decades.
It is also very unrealistic - all four men are highly successful (winning oscars, showing at the MoMA etc) and are a melting pot of races and so sexually fluid - just to tick those diversity boxes eh.

Jude, the main character, is a selfish bore and I got incredibly irritated having to listen to, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry” over and over and over and over again - not just from the insipid Jude but from all characters.

To sum this up in one word: YAWN. I’m off to listen to the genius that is Stephen King to remind of what great literature is...

2 people found this helpful

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