Wednesday, 25 November 2020

The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara Book Review!

Hi Readers! It’s been a long time since my last book review! Well, after reading Madeline Miller’s Circe, I picked up another book that had been in my TBR for a long time, which was Hanya Yanagihara’s ‘The People in the Trees’! Ever since I read ‘A Little Life’, I have not been able to shut up about it AT ALL. So, it was only obvious some time soon I was to read the only other book written by Hanya Yanagihara! It took me 3 weeks to read this book despite it being a medium-paged book. And, it took another week to contemplate it. But, I am finally here to let you all know about my thoughts on the book! Here we go!



The People in the Trees is an autobiography of a fictional scientist named Dr. Abraham Norton Perina. His whole story is penned in a few pages right at the beginning of the story giving us an idea of his life. It begins with a newspaper article stating how Norton is faced with the charge of sexual abuse by one of his 43 adopted children. It goes on to mention the Nobel Prize he won for his research of immortal life but with mental decay after the consumption of Opa’ivu’eke, which is a turtle found on Ivu’Ivu, one of the three islands of the Micronesian country U’ivu.

So, basically you already know what to expect from the book. In my experience, I’m not a fan of such reveals at the beginning. Though it doesn’t give us the entire story, it sure takes away the mystery. But, anyway, I still found the story extremely intriguing. Probably more so than any non-fiction biography, which says a lot!


The main and only character, I suppose I could say, is Dr. Abraham Norton Perina. While reading the book throughout, he comes across as someone who is leading a life apart from himself. He either doesn’t care about other people or does not possess the intelligence to understand the repercussions of his decisions toward other people. When he published his paper about immortality, he did not think about the impact it would cause to Ivu’ivu. Also, when he started adopting a dozen children after a dozen children, what was his thought process? It did not seem like he loved them at all, but only adopted them to cover his guilt of destroying Ivu’ivu. As a scientist, he might have an inquisitive & insightful approach to people & subjects, but as a human being, he was a big failure for me. I read page after page of his entire life story & when he reached the age of 71, I was not pleased with the person he had become.



After reading a bit of the novel, you understand how much amount of research, insight & intelligence it takes to come up with such a story. The scientific aspects, the invention of these islands & various trees & animals surrounding it. There was just such incredible writing. For the first 65% of the book, we read about the first time that Norton had visited Ivu’ivu along with Tallent & Esme. This being the major part of the book, it set the foundation of the story, which is incredibly interesting. You cannot put the book down during that part of it. After this part, the narrative shifts entirely from Norton’s professional life to his personal life. I didn’t care much for this change, because it completely changed the focus of the novel. I think it would have been better if there was a good merge of the two throughout the novel rather than the clear demarcation.



Post Norton’s discovery, we see how it transformed Ivu’ivu. We see all the pharma companies getting into the island & destroying it only for the sake of a possible scientific discovery. It physically pained me to read that part, because in the most subtle way, Hanya Yanagihara has showed how we are doing the same thing to OUR PLANET! We are facing such a dire climate crisis because of so many reasons & reading this book makes it way too real. Because the first part of the story was written with magnificence toward the island is the reason why I could feel the pain when it was destroyed.



When I read ‘A Little Life’, I immensely enjoyed it because even though Jude was the main character, we also had all these other main characters – his friends & also so many others. It rounded up the story really well. Whereas in ‘The People in the Trees’, we only have one character, which is the exact opposite. But, even in this case, I enjoyed reading it because the one-character portrayal was immensely absorbing! You feel like you want to know everything about this fictional scientist!

‘A Little Life’ brings out the challenges of living with mental illness & captivates the reader through this. But, in ‘The People in the Trees’, we get the message of saving the Earth. Both are important topics & written through such an intense angle that it becomes impossible to not act on those. I hope Hanya comes up with a new novel with just as important a message as these two! I have rated Hanya Yanagihara’ The People in the Trees at 3.5/5 on Goodreads!


Until next time,

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