After two books, Hanya Yanagihara has now been put onto my “blind buy” author list. This is my list of authors that I will gladly buy their new book without knowing anything about it. You may remember my previous review A Little Life and how much I gushed over it. Well, The People in the Trees is Yanagihara’s first book, and for a debut novel, it is absolutely brilliant!
Now, being a debut novel, you can see where the author is learning their craft, and in Yanagihara’s second novel, she most definitely expands upon that craft. However, Yanagihara’s themes, and how these themes are presented, is a skill that the author seems to naturally possess.
The best thing about this books are the characters. The main character, Norton, is complex, certainly not likable, intelligent, egotistical, and most of all… human… We are not going to resonate with him on a superficial level, but really, we all share very similar qualities, and that’s what drew me in to these characters and their stories. Human nature, and the perception of human nature, really interests me, and it is explored with finesse in this book. If one person is evil, can they still be a genuine? If a person is honest, can they still be a liar? What do you consider reliable vs unreliable? The dichotomy of labels that we put on people based upon their actions, or indeed, what actions we choose to support or vilify, is a fascinating subject. When you have a situation of intentions vs consequences, which one ultimately “wins”? All these garbled and incoherent questions/ramblings are the result of reading this intense piece of fiction. But you know what? I bloody love it!
If you want a book that will make you question things you originally had a different opinion on, reinforce some ideas of yours, but maybe make you consider them from a different angle, then pick this book up. It is not an easy book at all. You will need to read fluff afterwards, but these type of books don’t come along often, so take a chance.