Elif Batuman at The New Yorker:
When I first heard about Hanya Yanagihara’s “A Little Life”—a 720-page, four-friends-in-New-York novel that unexpectedly morphs into the saga of the self-loathing and self-harm of the disabled survivor of serial homosexual pedophilia—I didn’t plan on reading it. This decision was based on a belief I formed about myself as a child in the nineteen-eighties: some people, I saw, really liked to read novels about foster children who had flashbacks to terrible encounters with pedophiles or other abusers, but I usually preferred books that were about other things. I didn’t appreciate the ready-made importance or seriousness that seemed to be conferred by the subject matter. I thought it was great that books like that existed, and I knew they met a need, but they weren’t for me.
“A Little Life” became one of the most-talked-about books of 2015, a best-seller in the U.S. and the U.K., the subject of many enthusiastic reviews andreader testimonials, and a finalist for the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Award. (It has now begun to appear on end-of-the-year top-ten lists.) I read some of the positive reviews. Sooner or later, I would get to a sentence like “Jude was taught to cut himself by Brother Luke” and would be unable to imagine myself reading such a book. As for the negative reviews—which were less numerous but sometimes written by close friends with whom I often agreed about books—they seemed to be describing a genuinely problematic text.