BKMT READING GUIDES
A Little Life: A Novel
by Hanya Yanagihara
Paperback : 832 pages
19 clubs reading this now
6 members have read this book
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ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR
The New York Times • The Washington Post • The Wall Street Journal • NPR • Vanity Fair • Vogue • Minneapolis Star Tribune • St. Louis Post-Dispatch • The Guardian • O, The Oprah Magazine • Slate • Newsday • Buzzfeed • The Economist • Newsweek • People • Kansas City Star • Shelf Awareness • Time Out New York • Huffington Post • Book Riot • Refinery29 • Bookpage • Publishers Weekly • Kirkus
WINNER OF THE KIRKUS PRIZE
A MAN BOOKER PRIZE FINALIST
A NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST
A Little Life follows four college classmates—broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition—as they move to New York in search of fame and fortune. While their relationships, which are tinged by addiction, success, and pride, deepen over the decades, the men are held together by their devotion to the brilliant, enigmatic Jude, a man scarred by an unspeakable childhood trauma. A hymn to brotherly bonds and a masterful depiction of love in the twenty-first century, Hanya Yanagihara’s stunning novel is about the families we are born into, and those that we make for ourselves.
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Discussion Questions1. Why the title, A Little Life? Certainly Jude's life is hardly insignificant or small. Here's what Hanya Yanagihara said when asked by Newsweek if the title is ironic: "All life is small.... Life will end in death and unhappiness, but we do it anyway." The Newsweek interviewer referred to the author's view of life as tragic and futile. Does that make it small? What do you think?
2. An editor once advised Yanagihara to trim the amount of time spent on Jude's childhood, arguing that concentrating so heavily on his physical and psychological deprivations would repulse readers. Yanagihara refused to cut. What do you think? Should she have trimmed the sections? How difficult or painful were those passages for you?
3. Talk about the four main characters: Willem, JB, and Malcolm, as well as Jude. How are they similar, how are they different, and what is behind the strength of their long-lasting friendships? How would you compare their male friendship to those among women?
4. A Little Life focuses heavily on the inner lives of its characters, with very little attention paid to exterior surroundings. Do you feel the interiority slows the book down, makes it drag in parts? Or do you find the inward focus enriches the story, making it compelling, even enthralling?
5. Were you disappointed with the lack of central, well-developed female characters? Yanagihara, again in Newsweek, said that “men are offered a much, much smaller emotional vocabulary to work with,” which makes them more challenging to write about. Women, on the other hand, have a well-trod emotional landscape and are less interesting to her as a writer. What are your thoughts?
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