Hanya Yanagihara Books In Order

Publication Order of Standalone Novels

The People in the Trees (2013) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
A Little Life (2015) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

At her age of ten, she might have dreamed of becoming a scientist. Or a portraitist. She used to go to the morgue, accompanied by a pathologist’s daughter, to draw the faces of dead people.

She strongly admires the paintings that Geoffrey Chadsey has drawn. A journey through the male world…

Her voluminous novel, A Little Life, has provoked the readers to know more about her. Many have discovered that reading Hanya Yanagihara’s book drives to traumatic experiences, childhood reminiscences, honesty, ethics… The author is desperately attempting to bridge a fairy tale with naturalism.

Hanya’s mother was born in Seoul, but grew up in Hawaii, as Hanya’s father, too. He was a doctor, a researcher at the National Health Institute, and regularly moved to different places, like New York, Baltimore, California, Texas, LA, where Hanya was born. The sense of moving, staying at motels and facing a variety of stories overwhelms her literary endeavors and life experience. Now she is settled in Manhattan, and is an editor of the T magazine at The New York Times.

She has never wanted a family of her own. She doesn’t believe in marriage, nor do her characters. It is the concept of friendship that dominates her understanding about relationships, and more so, when they live outside the conventional paradigm of the society. One of the messages her novel, A Little Life, delivers is that friendship is unique in essence and is a search for the most valuable in one’s life. That endeavor reminds the reading audience of other writers succumbing to the friendship line in their narratives like Lincoln, Coleridge, etc.

Hanya is fascinated with describing how abuse has an impact on a male’s life over the long run, the character of Jude and his story representing a reference point. It lived for years in the author’s imagination; it passed several transformations in terms of the main character’s typical features and occupation, but the approach to the world based on personal experience and a way of living and facing difficulties remained unchanged from the birth of the idea to write A Little Life. The reading audience is slowly and generously driven to Jude’s facing the challenge that his childhood trauma may be never repaired, that he may not ever be in a capacity to recover from it. To turn his indignation inward has stemmed from his early childhood, and a potential self-violence – not so often exploited in fiction until recently – comes as his natural reaction. The three, out of the four friends in the novel who move to live in New York, are solidly unaware of Jude’s backstory, but a special bond holds the group together. What the author provokes is a deeper search for the truth whether what is embedded in the story goes beyond the limits of the fiction… Human relationships are at the core of the author’s exploration, and in this approach Hanya remains true to her style. There are passages in the novel that specifically move the reader with their reference to love and genuine compassion.

An echo in A Little Life novel generates from the story of The People in the Trees, which is developed from the abuser’s perspective, the fictional character, Dr. Perina, being at the core of the story, with his discovery of how eternal life may be achieved – in the author’s view, the fact tragically twisting people’s minds as a consequence – and his adoption of children, living on a small, imaginary island of a “lost tribe” that he has expedited as an immunologist in an anthropological team. It is the misuse of authority, broken trust and lasting scars that preoccupy the author’s exploration. Her eye of a latent scientist is also dominant in describing the imaginary country, its physical characteristics, and the experience of its indigenous people – a good reminder of Conrad’s approach – driving the reading audience to astonishment, despair and exhaustion in trying to search for and identify solace, among others. The novel is audacious and painfully realistic. With a touch to colonization and the arrogance of the western civilization, or how codes of ethics collide, the novel embraces moral dilemmas, too. Is there a praise for the genius when s/he becomes a monster? In what respect is his/her contribution precious for the well being of the society and the common good vis-a-vis his/her wrongdoing? Many questions, difficult answers.

Are the style and approach of the author towards the essence of those issues finding its intimate closeness to the narrative related to Frankenstein and Faustus?

Yanagihara’s specifics as a writer, however, fall in the domain of Flaubert-type of fiction, too, where naturalism and realism fuse.
Whatever the trends and schools the critics refer to when analyzing Hanya’s works, her prose is rich, challenging, provocative in its own manner, and masterly shaped and tuned with its main components. The fictional characters, although importing ingredients in their behavior and approaches from real life and persons, disturb the reader with the writer’s audacity and honesty implanted in their descriptions, without the solid credit to mercy, yet compassionate.
Greenwell’s What Belongs to You, to be published next year, is Hanya’s current reading preference.

She admits she is not embarking on writing unless she is in a position of urgency to deliver a message.

She is also fond of writing about photographs, paintings, visual art in general, and it is for certain that her fiction possesses the cinematic dimension, too.

The typical timelessness of the novel A Little Life resembles Pullman’s style; and the internal insights about the characters – a Nabokov’s approach – are sometimes measured in seconds, minutes… Small quantities of life… Love and romance, however, represent its integral components, too. Joy and the dark side of the soul go hand in hand. It is Hanya Yanagihara’s philosophy. But it is also like to be trapped in quicksand, without having time enough to resist. It looks like you merge with reality as there is no escape. You have to face it. It is inevitable. It is like the pain Hanya had to live with when she was growing up…

Book Series In Order » Authors » Hanya Yanagihara