“I might have to say the book is quite dull” – A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

allhyOn the thirtieth of August I picked up the book and I read it. I had thoughts about the book and they were not all favourable. I thought the prose was precise but that most of the sentences were flat. The sentences were unusually bland.

The book had arrived in the post. It was in a brown envelope. Somebody had written my address on the front of the envelope. This was how it came to be delivered to my house.

“You have a parcel,” my wife had said to me at the time.

“It is probably that book I have to review,” I had replied.

It was the book. I read the book.

Now I am reviewing the book. Those thoughts I had about the book as I read it will have to be typed. I will open a Microsoft Office file and write a review. I will email the review to my editor. He will decide whether or not to publish it on a website. If he does publish it on a website, people will be able to read it.

When the book arrived I had noticed how big it was. It was too big to fit in my letter box because my letter box is smaller than the book. Later, when I read the book, I had thoughts not only about its dimensions but also about the words that made up the novel and what they meant and how their meanings affected me emotionally. They didn’t affect me greatly. I decided that I wasn’t sure about the book. The book was quite dull.

“I might have to say the book is quite dull,” I had said to my wife, when I read the book.

My wife was sitting on a chair. It was a brown chair. I was also sitting on a brown chair. The chairs were brown because they were made out of wood and had not been painted. They had been treated with a clear varnish. Wood is brown. Some wood is light brown and some wood is dark brown but most wood is medium brown in colour. The chairs we were sat on were medium brown in colour. Because the varnish was clear it hadn’t massively affected the colour of the chairs.

“That’s a shame,” she had noted, when I had mentioned that the book was dull.

“Yes,” I had confirmed.

It was a shame. I prefer liking books to disliking books.

In the conversation that followed, we did not talk too much about the book. We talked about what might be nice for tea. We decided eggs would be nice for tea.

Any Cop?: A Little Life does, eventually, get round to telling us that child abuse is a bad thing, but man alive is it boring in its build up. Every anecdote (and the novel is mostly one anecdote after another) is drawn out, sluggish and tedious. Every page a struggle. The subject matter is, obviously, an important one but, really, why would want to wade through page after page of it – if you really care about the effects of child abuse, wouldn’t you be far better donating £16.99 to the NSPCC than buying this book? You would, wouldn’t you?

Every critic in the world has described A Little Life as a masterpiece. Every book shop is full of copies. It is the favourite to win the Man Booker Prize. So ubiquitous is the praise it’s getting that I know some people will think I am being purposely contradictory in questioning its merits. I’m not, I really did find nothing to love in its 8,000 pages. But feel free to ignore me. I have been wrong before.

Benjamin Judge


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