Okay so, yes, everything you've heard is true.
If you choose to read A Little Life, it will almost certainly be the most difficult book you've ever experienced. If not, thanks but I don't want to read whatever else you've got for me.
Brutal. Claustrophobic. Devastating.
I would read it again. I'm going to give it five stars on goodreads. It will go down as one of my favourite books.
But. If I'd known how I was going to feel while reading it and after reading it before I read it? I may well have not read it.
Which would've been a mistake, certainly, but I'm just giving you a warning here. If you are interested, at least try not to read it in the heart of your least favourite season (with the least amount of sunlight and the most amount of bitter cold), in the worst month of the year, during which someone you adored and admired also died. Because with all that plus A Little Life? It could destroy you for quite a while.
So, I liked The Secret History. I liked it quite a lot, but ultimately it let me down. Well, perhaps the book itself didn't let me down, so much as all the hype in the twenty years between publication and my reading of it. Readers talked about how amazing the friendship stuff was in there - I just didn't really feel it.
If you want to read a book that conveys friendship in its most excellent representation - redeeming, loyalty, love exceeding romantic love, tenderness, empathy, kindness - this is your book.
You will certainly pay for it, however, by enduring the knowledge of Jude's life that brought him to where he needed that friendship to survive.
A Little Life was released in paperback yesterday (in the United States). I think there's only one person in my face-to-face life I can wholeheartedly recommend it to, but that qualification emerges from how strong of a person I believe her to be, not because I don't want to recommend this novel to everyone I know. I'm just not sure I can shoulder the responsibility for all the devastation such a recommendation could wreck.
One of the few books that makes me wonder if I should reconsider the other novels I've given five stars to, bumping down a few, perhaps, simply because no matter how much I love them they can't compare to the depth and anguish and beauty of A Little Life.