There is a quote at the back of this book from The Times :
‘It’s not often that you read a book of this length and find yourself thinking “I wish it was longer” ‘
This book is over 700 pages long, and yet I found myself actively reading slower in order to make it last longer.
The story is esquitely simple in that it follows a group of 4 young men (friends), from college to adulthood, and beyond.
Yet, just like the lives it documents, nothing is ever that simple.
I don’t want to ruin this book for anyone who would like to read it (and I think you really should) so I am only going to talk in this review about the things that really struck me about this book.
First we have the writing.
As a poet, I have never read much poetry, but have always gravitated towards novels. The novels I love, are the ones with lines in them that reseamble poetry.
One of my favourite lines lies in the novel Beloved by Toni Morrison. It is a description of a scar on a back that looks like a tree, it is no coincidence that the main protaganist in A Little Life also has a scarred back.
There are countless lines in this book that are memorable. I opened the book at random and found this one on page 300:
“He is conscious of his right foot dragging against the pavement the way it does when he is tired or dispirited, too tired or dispirited to make a greater effort. ”
As the novel gets darker in its themes, the writing gets richer in these shadows, and I wont spoil it by including more.
I am that girl who does not watch films with an 18 certificate because I am far too senstive, I don’t like watching things that feature violence or abuse in particluar. (I love Law and Order but refuse to watch SVU for that reason)
This book has childhood and adult sexual abuse and violence.
Another reason it took me so long to read it was because I had to keep stopping out of a deep sadness.
I had to watch happy You Tube Videos after reading some parts, as well as make sure I was surrounded by crystals to help me get through it.
The reason I don’t like watching things with such graphic themes is not because I want to pretent these things don’t happen in real life – its because I am acutely aware that they do.
A Little Life as a novel and as a title is a reminder of this – what happens in the lives of those around us, things so unspeakable that they must be spoken.
Toxic Masculinity and the absence of Feminine Nurture
In A Little Life we see an abundance of toxic masulinity in abusers and expectatons placed on the main men of the tale.
The female characters are not the main focus, but they represent hope whenever they show up.
The male characters when embracing their Divine Feminie are capable of great love and forgiveness.
I loved reading about the lives of men. It provided a window into a world I already kinda knew exsisted. Men as three dimensional characters.
In a book where all the bad people are men, all the really wonderful people are men too.
The world needs to hear that.
The patterns that we are shown in the book can be overwheming in their brutality.
The action of being thrown down the stairs repeats itself in the most uncomfortable of ways, as does the action of running.
In these repititons we are reminded subtly and sometimes explicity of the patterns that we may find showing up in our own lives, asking us to confront our own, reminding us that they will keep showing up until we do.
I speak alot on this blog about shadow work, and this Novel in many ways was one big delve into the parts of people that are often rejected and seen as shameful.
There are mirrors present in how the characgters react and behave with one another.
There is triggering, and conflict and eventual resoultuions.
A Little Life is not for the faintheared, but if you want to be reminded of just how challenging and rewarding life can be in equal measure, have a read and allow yourself to see what you have buried in its pages.
Much love Txx
ps: This book may be triggering for victims of sexual/emotional/physical abuse.