To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara: a ‘wantonly strange’ work

Hanya Yanagihara’s latest novel is the “keenly awaited” follow up to A Little Life, her “devastating story of irreparable human damage”, said David Sexton in The Sunday Times. It consists of three sections all set in the same New York building and taking place, respectively, in 1893, 1993 and 2093.

Part one re-imagines 19th century New York as a “liberal breakaway nation in which gay marriage is normal”. Part two, set in the “time of Aids”, focuses on a wealthy white lawyer and his young Hawaiian lover. Part three envisages an America that has been ravaged by “successive waves of viruses, every few years from 2020”. While a “less bludgeoningly powerful” work than A Little Life, it’s still “highly affecting”.

This is in many ways a “wantonly strange” work, said Claire Allfree in The Times: the convoluted narrative can be “frustratingly opaque”, and there’s a complete absence of humour. Yet there’s no denying Yanagihara’s skill at immersing us in the “emotional world of her characters”. For all its flaws, To Paradise is “frequently magnificent”.

Picador 720pp £20; The Week Bookshop £15.99

To Paradise

The Week Bookshop

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