Inspiration rating 10/10
This book has inspired me to realise that when we do not accept compliments, it affects those who love us.
This is the sort of book that you prepare yourself for, because you know you will be held emotionally hostage for a number of days until you finish reading (because once you start, it is very difficult to stop) and at 720 pages, it is not something you can skim through.
It focuses on the most important thing in life: relationships.
Hanya is very deliberate in the way she captures this, by creating a small close-knit number of people who are focused around a single tragic and beautiful character named Jude. The writing is clever because it brings you into the group with the nuanced gestures and explains the significance of the simple inanimate objects, to the story of a person’s life. For example, the secret non-verbal vocabulary of scratching your ear at a party so that your friend knows to come and rescue you from a terrible conversation (so no-one else knows). Like a professional she leaves little treasures along the way to be discovered in the closing pages with heartbreaking sadness. Throughout the book Hanya talks around the subject, giving the reader intelligence to know what is going on, but not throwing it into your face.
The book was not without its frustrations for me. I found the character's resistance to professional help (for people who clearly needed it) really irritating, but then again I think this is a reflection of how much the group rely on each other.
I have always admired people who can keep friendships from their early years and this group is all those kinds of people. Although it is unspoken, they all truly know and love each other. This genuine sincerity is what makes each of the characters so appealing. For example, Malcolm the architect knows that Jude feels clean when a space is filled with light and JB, the artist, knows the exact colour of Jude's hair in the sunlight. Imagine knowing someone that intimately for almost your whole life...
Sample of the text: (p. 437)
But to Jude, he wasn't an actor: he was a friend, and that identity supplanted everything else. It was a role he had inhabited for so long that it had become, indelibly, who he was. To Jude, he was no more primarily an actor than Jude was primarily a lawyer - it was never the first or second or third way that either of them would describe each other. It was Jude who had remembered who he had been before he had made a life pretending to be other people: someone with a brother, someone so impressive and beguiling. He knew other actors who didn't want anyone to remember them as they'd been, as someone so determined to be someone else, but he wasn't that person. He wanted to be reminded of who he was; he wanted to be around someone for whom his career would never be the most interesting thing about him.