by Tim Murphy
Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life was a surprise hit in 2015 – surprise because its box-set readability was fuelled by childhood trauma and adult psychological dysfunction. Yanagihara not only provides the blurb for Tim Murphy’s debut but also a sprawling, emotionally charged New York blueprint. The title refers to the building in Manhattan’s East Village that houses Murphy’s broad cast. If the Christodora is the novel’s geographical heart, then Aids is its thematic core. Our hero, although there is more than one, is Mateo, whose mother dies of the disease. Mateo is adopted by Milly and Jared, artists whose fate criss-crosses with that of fellow Christodora resident Hector Villanueva, a tireless Aids activist. The death of his partner, combined ironically with the discovery of effective treatment, leads an exhausted, grieving Hector towards drug addiction. Murphy, who wrote about Aids as a journalist, has found a form capacious enough to trace its destructive paths as a novelist. Like A Little Life, Christodora will blow you away, for good and bad.