Finished this over the weekend. I didn't race through it as much as many of you did, but that could be as much life getting in the way (and having to read some other stuff concurrently) as it is my enthusiasm, but not over-the-moonness, for the book.
I really liked this book. Jude is certainly an immediately classic character, one who leaps off the page at every turn. In his personal side of the story, Yanagihara also manages to make each and every character round and memorable...favorites include Harold, for sure, and Andy, and even in his own twisted way Caleb, who you have a hard time ever forgetting.
The star of this book, though, is Yanagihara's prose. The way she describes the world of these characters is beautiful, and I found in many places her prose was propelling me through the book more than her plot. She has also set up a lot of very difficult passages and handles them superbly: the Caleb beating, the JB incident, the car accident, all the tales of abuse and manipulation, even the sex scenes that are so painful for Jude. Yanagihara doesn't make a false mood in any of those moments, and they are dealt with care, compassion and a marvelous use of words.
Reading through this thread, I see that the two biggest issues I had with the book have already been touched on here:
I had a hard time getting through the first 100 or so pages, mostly because there seemed to be so much exposition being thrown at me and I didn't find myself connecting with any of the characters (that may just be me, though). By the time the book settles in on Jude, I began to warm up to it a lot (by the time Caleb shows up, I was hooked). For so much of that exposition to not pay off (we spend so much time with Malcolm, and then he becomes such a non-entity) that I think there was a better way to structure that. The book is non-linear enough that this is info that could have been laid in later on in the story...it felt like after a while the book shifted gears, and I am not as forgiving of it as many of you seem to be.
I love the way that the book doles out information, although some of it was a little too forecasted for me and I think loses a bit of the punch because the pieces of the puzzle had already fallen into place for me. The entire Dr. Traylor section seemed a little anti-climactic, though, and I'm glad I'm not the first. I think this is not just what happens to Jude in the basement, but the way it is told. The Brother Luke section of the book is so vivid, and we see the torment in Jude so strongly during it, that the Dr. Traylor stuff felt much more rote and pulpy than anything else in the book. I don't think what Traylor does needs to be worse, but we need to get deeper into Jude's psyche in those moments. I did love, however, that we don't find out how Traylor was caught...in my mind, I don't think Jude knows how he was caught, nor do I think he cares.
All said, thank you flipp for pushing this so hard. I don't think I would have read it had I not seen so much chatter on the board about it, and I am glad I read it. It is perhaps 75 pages too long (I found a lot of the ending, as beautiful and moving as it was, very redundant), but it is engrossing and this is a major literary talent we have on our hands!
"Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good."
- Minor Myers, Jr.