To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara
Published January 11th 2022
Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Adult, LGBTQ+
Buy: Book Depository | Amazon
From the author of the classic A Little Life, a bold, brilliant novel spanning three centuries and three different versions of the American experiment, about lovers, family, loss and the elusive promise of utopia.
In an alternate version of 1893 America, New York is part of the Free States, where people may live and love whomever they please (or so it seems). The fragile young scion of a distinguished family resists betrothal to a worthy suitor, drawn to a charming music teacher of no means. In a 1993 Manhattan besieged by the AIDS epidemic, a young Hawaiian man lives with his much older, wealthier partner, hiding his troubled childhood and the fate of his father. And in 2093, in a world riven by plagues and governed by totalitarian rule, a powerful scientist’s damaged granddaughter tries to navigate life without him—and solve the mystery of her husband’s disappearances.
These three sections are joined in an enthralling and ingenious symphony, as recurring notes and themes deepen and enrich one another: A townhouse in Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village; illness, and treatments that come at a terrible cost; wealth and squalor; the weak and the strong; race; the definition of family, and of nationhood; the dangerous righteousness of the powerful, and of revolutionaries; the longing to find a place in an earthly paradise, and the gradual realization that it can’t exist. What unites not just the characters, but these Americas, are their reckonings with the qualities that make us human: Fear. Love. Shame. Need. Loneliness.
To Paradise is a fin de siècle novel of marvellous literary effect, but above all it is a work of emotional genius. The great power of this remarkable novel is driven by Yanagihara’s understanding of the aching desire to protect those we love – partners, lovers, children, friends, family and even our fellow citizens – and the pain that ensues when we cannot.
This book is divided in three parts, between past and future and set in an America different from the one known.
Part One: We have in 1893 New York, one David Bingham. He is set up for an arranged marriage by his grandfather – with whom he lives – to a wealthy widower named Charles Griffith. But while navigating his youth he falls in love with his penniless music teacher instead. Will he do the right thing for his family’s sake or will he go all in on love?
The second part is set in 1990s New York. In an alternate universe, David is a Hawaiian man, with a sick father, having an affair with Charles, a senior partner to his junior paralegal and 30 years older than himself.
The third part has a dystopian pandemic setting set in the 2090s. The book is divided in parts set in present and past (max 50 years before). We have two main characters – Charlie Griffith and David – Charlie’s grandfather. In this setting, homosexuality is no longer encouraged and we also get to see pandemic side effects like sterility.
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