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a little life


A little Life – Hanya Yanagihara

17th February 2016

A Little Life


Today feels like the right day to write about this book because I received a text message from my mother in law earlier who was in the car park of John Lewis and I quote, “crying her eyes out” (I’ve removed the expletive… no problem Elaine!) after listening to one of the chapters of the book on audible. Now, from what I gather, she’s only about a third of the way through and all I can tell you is if you’re crying then, at that point in the story, it’s not going to be the last time.

I think I saw this book in the window display in Waterstones last autumn and stuck it on my goodreads list because I saw it had been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. That was recommendation enough for me. Around Christmas time I got it out at the library, tentatively to be honest as a few reviews said it was really depressing. Now, December was a bit of a weird month for me for all number of reasons, it had high highs and low lows. Resting up in bed toward the end after feeling like a total write off (read:shit), I picked this up and was all of a sudden landed in New York to meet Jude & Willem & JB & Malcolm. I wasn’t up for depressing, but though it was a heavy read it wasn’t depressing. It was a book about love, really, ultimately what it is to love. I didn’t look back, I just got so caught up in it. Isn’t it the most wonderful and rare feeling to read something that does that to you, that sets off a kind of heartfire? So few times in my life I read a book whose entirely fictitious characters I have felt so connected to, so worried about. I was with these guys from the start, noting their idiosyncrasies and insecurities, the way they behaved, the ways they shared, what they were interested in, how their dynamic worked. I felt for all of them, but in particular Willem and Jude. Jude for his brilliance and fragility and Willem for being so incredibly kind, his lightness of being jumped off the page.

It is so beautifully written it made me ache, for example, on describing the light in JB’s studio: “At five thirty, the light was perfect: buttery and dense and fat somehow, swelling the room as it had the train into something expensive and hopeful.”

And my favourite quote entirely that sums up everything in life, said during a particularly heartbreaking scene: “Things get broken, and sometimes they get repaired, and in most cases you realise that no matter what gets damaged, life rearranges itself to compensate for your loss, sometimes wonderfully.”

This story does have some upsetting and disturbing content within it’s pages. Sometimes I had to set it aside before I was able to return to it because it was so intense (a friend has since read it and done the very same thing) . But there are moments of expansiveness, of incredible love and kindness that balance the sadness.

I won’t give any spoilers here. I want you to read it and get swept up too. One of the funnest things was being able to read along with people on instagram, from Sydney to Kentucky messages were exchanged: ‘did you get to?’ ‘Oh my God, I couldn’t believe…’ and all of us in agreement that we would love to really know and hang out Willem & Jude & Malcolm & JB.

You can ‘follow’ the book on instagram @alittlelifebook where there’s a link to the art work of the boys names which you can get printed onto totes, mugs… whatever you like. I am, for sure, going to make myself up a t-shirt.

I finished the book in mid January. I don’t buy a lot of books any more, but this one made the shelf, it hasn’t left me, I will return to it again and again like an old friend. A real must-read.


A Little Life on the shelf



Books Crochet This week

:: This week ::

3rd January 2016

Christmas week pretty much kicked my ass – so this week, has of sorts been about getting back on my game doing all the normal life things like getting on top of the laundry, taking the kids cycling, walking the dog, making stuff, reading, Oh God! The reading… the absolute highlight, but we’ll get to that. So this is the current format for this year on a Sunday – what I’m making, listening to, reading & watching with a brief happy list and my favourite stuff on instagram.

First up:

:: what I’m making

I got serious with my baboushka blanket this week. I’ve been wanting to make one of these since I saw it on pinterest a couple of years ago and now the perfect little person has arrived to give me an excuse. I’ve crocheted baubles until I could do it no more and it’s so nice to be making something else.

First stage of the blocks - the flowers.

First stage of the blocks – the flowers.


Next up, the leaves

Next up, the leaves.


Then I bordered in blue.

Then I bordered in blue.


A single crochet red border.

A single crochet red border.


Now I'm just waiting for them to dry.

Now I’m just waiting for them to dry.

:: listening to

  • kiasmos – I got to tell you, I’d been listening to a bit too much Adele in December and I’m close to puking every time I hit play on ‘hello’ now, so this is quite the electronic antidote – I like ‘swept’.
  • Derek Sivers on the Tim Ferriss podcast. I listened to the first podcast Tim had with Sivers earlier in December – he’s an interesting guy. I like his story – how he went from being a musician to a circus clown to a multi-millionaire by learning to code and serving his fellow artists. I like that he has no routine to his day and that he can focus and so thoroughly lose himself in one activity alone. It’s completely antithetical to how I try to live my life but it fascinates me how other people manage their time and there’s something particularly fascinating about this man and his take on the world.
  • The rest of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Magic Lessons – after seeing this woman speak in London during last November and reading ‘Big Magic‘ I feel like something sparked up in me. You listen to the doubt and the worry that the women have on this podcast about beginning or being good enough and you really start to realise, you just have to begin, you have to start. To get your creative work done, you have to show up consistently, everyday, even when you least feel like it or when you feel most blocked. I loved Brene Brown’s quote ‘unused creativity is not benign’ – we are all creative – when we don’t use our creativity to communicate with inspiration bad stuff manifests in our lives, guilt, depression, frustration, sadness, unhappiness. Powerful stuff, I recommend it.

:: reading

  • Oh My God. I am reading the best book I have read in some time, in years even. On instagram I’ve been in contact with people from Kentucky to Sydney, everyone awestruck at just HOW WELL a story can be written and how much we have all felt as a result. It is already in the top three best books I have ever read alongside ‘the god of small things’ and ‘the goldfinch.’ I picked up Hanya Yanagihara’s ‘A little life’ at the tail end of December but only began a week or so ago. I really feel as I read it, with each beautifully constructed sentence, that I have been swept away and woven into an epic story of friendship and tragedy. I feel the relationships between Jude and Willem and JB and Malcolm in a rare way that not every book manages. I feel the understandings and the incomprehension and the love, the sadness and the trauma that exists between them all. I have cried 4 times and I’m just halfway through, it’s bleak, but in so many ways hopeful. The story digs deep into each of the inner lives of the characters, who they are, how they think, why they love. I can’t describe it – I just want you to read it, all it’s fragility and all it’s disturbing content and all it’s wonder and brilliance. It is similar in tone to Donna Tartt’s ‘the secret history’ but is so entirely different it almost feels incomparable. I can’t put this work down, so much so, I worry about when and how it will end and whether I will find anything to follow it.

:: watching

  • Friday night lights. We’ve just done season 1. Tim frikking Riggins. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, go on netflix. You’re welcome.

:: making me happy this week


  • Walking up Firle Beacon with friends.
  • Did I mention Tim Riggins???
  • That I made George fried eggs he said were like ‘something from a film.’ High praise indeed.
  • Watching Ruby paint all day long, from the morning, through to the afternoon and then well into the night because she couldn’t sleep. She was completely in the zone, it was such a joy to watch and she created piece after piece after piece, each of them wrapped up for daddy’s birthday this week. Oh, she was a complete nightmare the following day too.
  • Mexican food and chats with my friend Ellie.
  • My flipagram for 2015
  • My 50 humble brags list for 2015. On New Years Eve between the dog walk and the tidying I wrote 50 things I was proud of during 2015 (truthfully I only managed 47) It included things like ‘kept the children going,’ ‘teaching the kids to cycle without stabilisers’ ‘running bright 10’ ‘first craft fair’ & ‘selling a blanket to the USA’. They are all small but significant reasons why the year was great.

:: Instagram account of the week

As I happened to recommend this already this week I’m going for @hotdudesreading, again, you are welcome.

:: Instaquote of the week

I shamelessly stole this from ‘A little life’ and put it onto instagram myself because it was so beautiful.

A little life