Reviews for To paradise

Publishers Weekly
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Yanagihara’s ambitious if unwieldy latest (after National Book Award finalist A Little Life) spins a set of three stories in New York City’s Washington Square over 200 years. David Bingham lives in the utopian “Free States” of 1893. He rejects a proposed arranged marriage with another wealthy, older man, opting to pursue a love match with a music teacher who lives a hardscrabble life. At a dinner party in 1993, the host’s oldest friend is dying from AIDS as the other guests consider the meaning of one’s legacy. One of them, also named David Bingham (this one a native Hawaiian paralegal), is cautiously optimistic about his relationship with his wealthy older boyfriend, Charles Griffith. A century later, a woman named Charlie Griffith deals with dystopian conditions such as a series of pandemics and a totalitarian society in which the press and homosexual relationships have been outlawed, and struggles to build a meaningful relationship with her husband. The stories are united by the characters’ desire for love as their freedom is diminished. The prose in the first section effectively conjures the style of Henry James, but there’s too much exposition and not enough character development in the final section, where the author spends too much time building out the future world. There’s a great deal of passion, but on the whole it’s a mixed bag. Agent: Anna Stein, ICM Partners. (Jan.)

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

The latest from Yanagihara (A Little Life, 2015) is an intricate dystopian epic, an immersive tale of intertwined fates across three centuries of alternate history. In 1893, same-sex arranged marriage is commonplace, the Civil War still festers in the southern colonies, and young David must choose between passion and security. A more familiar 1993 brings a young paralegal’s relationship with his older lover during the AIDS epidemic and a poignant backstory about a utopian shanty-town in Hawaii. Yanagihara's 2094 is a nightmare of totalitarianism, ecological degradation, and intolerance, in which a woman must trust a stranger if she is to survive. While A Little Life pushed readers to their emotional limits, this novel is ultimately less concerned with individual trauma than with collective dread. Pandemics are pervasive, a reminder of isolation and indifference. Racism and xenophobia remain constant. There is no solace in friendship; the pandemics revealed the limits of that. If there are embers of hope, they lie in the barest rudiments of human nature, our need for love and to protect our loved ones. Beneath Yanagihara’s patient world-building and restrained prose is a terrified scream.HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY:Yanagihara is on every literary watch list, and this novel's spiked and provocative prescience will generate much discussion.

Library Journal
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Following A Little Life, short-listed for the Man Booker Prize and a National Book Award finalist, Yanagihara's new novel tracks themes of love, loss, illness, power, and the unfillable desire for heaven on Earth over three centuries in stories tied together by a townhouse on New York City's Washington Square Park. In an alternate 1893 America, with New York belonging to the more or less freewheeling Free States, the scion of a prominent family prefers a poor music teacher to a more polished suitor. In AIDS-ravaged 1993 Manhattan, a young Hawaiian man living with a controlling older partner quietly suppresses his tattered childhood. And in plague-shattered totalitarian 2093, a troubled woman seeking her missing husband misses the guidance of her powerful scientist grandfather.

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A triptych of stories set in 1893, 1993, and 2093 explore the fate of humanity, the essential power and sorrow of love, and the unique doom brought upon itself by the United States. After the extraordinary reception of Yanagihara's Kirkus Prize–winning second novel, A Little Life (2015), her follow-up could not be more eagerly awaited. While it is nothing like either of her previous novels, it's also unlike anything else you've read (though Cloud Atlas, The House of Mirth, Martin and John, and Robertson Davies' Deptford Trilogy may all cross your mind at various points). More than 700 pages long, the book is composed of three sections, each a distinct narrative, each set in a counterfactual historical iteration of the place we call the United States. The narratives are connected by settings and themes: A house on Washington Square in Greenwich Village is central to each; Hawaii comes up often, most prominently in the second. The same names are used for (very different) characters in each story; almost all are gay and many are married. Even in the Edith Wharton–esque opening story, in which the scion of a wealthy family is caught between an arranged marriage and a reckless affair, both of his possible partners are men. Illness and disability are themes in each, most dramatically in the third, set in a brutally detailed post-pandemic totalitarian dystopia. Here is the single plot connection we could find: In the third part, a character remembers hearing a story with the plot of the first. She mourns the fact that she never did get to hear the end of it: "After all these years I found myself wondering what had happened....I knew it was foolish because they weren't even real people but I thought of them often. I wanted to know what had become of them." You will know just how she feels. But what does it mean that Yanagihara acknowledges this? That is just one of the conundrums sure to provoke years of discussion and theorizing. Another: Given the punch in the gut of utter despair one feels when all the most cherished elements of 19th- and 20th-century lives are unceremoniously swept off the stage when you turn the page to the 21st—why is the book not called To Hell? Gigantic, strange, exquisite, terrifying, and replete with mystery. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Yanagihara's (A Little Life) much-anticipated third novel explores love, regret, and the inextricable bonds of family, set against a richly imagined alternate historical backdrop. The novel is composed of three parts, with stories set in 1893, 1993, and 2093 and located in New York City and Hawai'i. In a homophobia-free 1893, David, heir to the magnificent Bingham estate, struggles to decide whether to pursue a love match with a handsome, but unreliable younger man or submit to a sensible arranged marriage. In an AIDS-ravaged 1993, a different David chooses love and security with a wealthy older gentleman. One hundred years later, a young woman, Charlie Griffith, navigates an ecologically devastated totalitarian state in which food, pleasure, and sexuality are strictly controlled. Each of the audiobook's five narrators delivers an outstanding performance that captures the nuances and tone of Yanagihara's bleak novel; Edoardo Ballerini, Kurt Kanazawa, and Feodor Chin's narrations are sensitively delivered and collectively bring out the characters' melancholy and yearning. And the final set of stories, narrated by Catherine Ho and BD Wong, is exquisite, channeling the hesitant but deeply emotional Charlie and her tender, mournful grandfather. VERDICT This is a transformative and superbly executed audiobook; highly recommended for all collections.—Sarah Hashimoto