For the first 4 days after finishing this book I was still and remain unable to fully articulate and summarise my feelings towards this book; so forgive me whilst I make a good attempt at it. For those of you who haven’t yet read this book this review will not contain any spoilers. It would completely take away from the reader’s experience if you knew any detail about the book. I want you to feel all the endless bounds of emotions that came flowing through me whilst reading this book and being taken on the character’s journeys. Here is the blurb taken directly from the book to give you an outline:
“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sometimes cruel painter pursuing fame in the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their centre of gravity.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 realise, is Jude himself; by midlife a terrifyingly talented lawyer yet increasingly a broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by a degree of trauma that he fears he will not only be unable to overcome – but that will define his life forever.
In a novel of extraordinary intelligence and heart, Yanagihara has fashioned a masterful depiction of heartbreak; and a dark and haunting examination of the tyranny of experience and memory”.
I don’t give ratings on my reviews I just share with you my thoughts and feelings on the book that I’ve read; as someone who has only recently started to read contemporary fiction, this is one of the best books in this genre I have ever read. Its 720 pages of a beautifully crafted story of the transition from college life to making it in the adult world, following four characters and how they change; and their relationships change with one another as they start to make their way in the world and as they navigate through life being the person they want to be and be known for.
Yanagihara’s way of writing takes you into the mind of each of the four characters and you start to understand how their family background and upbringing has shaped them and influenced their decisions and how they come to be as adults. Yangihara has an exceptional way of making the characters feel relatable and you start to become very emotionally invested in this small friendship circle that I did start to feel that they were real people in this world; and I wanted to be part of this circle. This is done spectacularly with Jude, his character is lifted off the pages and I felt that I really knew Jude as a whole person.
As the blurb alludes to Jude’s past, Yanagihara only reveals Jude’s past through small revelations throughout the book as Jude starts to share his past with others. However there are some parts of Jude’s past that only you as the reader know of and that made the heartbreak in that you experience for Jude and for his friends so much more affecting, distressing and painful. There were a number of times when I felt my eyes well up, towards the last third of the book I found it so intense that I was only able to read small snippets of the book at a time. No book has ever had this effect on me and is a credit to Yanagihara’s writing.
If you’re looking for a book to get you out of a reading slump or struggling to choose what to read next, please pick up this book: you will not be disappointed. The only disappointment is that I wish this book were longer so that I could continue to live in their world.