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From one of our most powerful writers, a work of stunning frankness about losing a daughter. Richly textured with bits of her own childhood and married life with her husband, John Gregory Dunne, and daughter, Quintana Roo, this new book by Joan Didion examines her thoughts, fears, and doubts regarding having children, illness, and growing old.
Blue Nights opens on July 26, 2010, as Didion thinks back to Quintana’s wedding in New York seven years before. Today would be her wedding anniversary. This fact triggers vivid snapshots of Quintana’s childhood—in Malibu, in Brentwood, at school in Holmby Hills. Reflecting on her daughter but also on her role as a parent, Didion asks the candid questions any parent might about how she feels she failed either because cues were not taken or perhaps displaced. “How could I have missed what was clearly there to be seen?” Finally, perhaps we all remain unknown to each other. Seamlessly woven in are incidents Didion sees as underscoring her own age, something she finds hard to acknowledge, much less accept.
Blue Nights—the long, light evening hours that signal the summer solstice, “the opposite of the dying of the brightness, but also its warning”—like The Year of Magical Thinking before it, is an iconic book of incisive and electric honesty, haunting and profoundly moving.
Publishers Weekly Review
© Publishers Weekly
I read the excerpt from this book and thought it would be an interesting read from an interesting lady, being unfamiliar with Joan Didion. I did enjoy the book, which I read in one fell swoop. I cannot imagine her loss or pain, but I found that her anguish and pain and possibly her healing came through well in her book. I liked the style of writing also but came away looking for more details, which just aren't there. I will read more of her books in the future.
I actually didn't like this book very much, and had to stop reading about 80 pages in. I have no doubt there is profound soul-searching here, which is why I bought it in the first place. But I felt that sincerity obscured by the frequent name dropping and elitist references - things like, "so-and-so made this movie and while on his yacht in the Maldives he took a picture of my daughter in her designer dress while I made martinis in my Chanel suit.". I understand the importance of life context, but I just felt the repetitive overlay of references to their fabulous life made me somewhat unsympathetic. For another grappling with the fatal illness of a loved one, I'd recommend Terry Tempest Williams' Refuge.
There were times, reading this, that I felt strongly moved by JD's repetitive sentence structures, a technique she more or less perfected in "The Book of Common Prayer.". At other times, I felt her prose style had become no longer mannered--something I loved in her work--but rather an echo of what it had been, her incantations victories not of feeling but only of syntax. I felt sorry, of course, for her losses--but I got fed up at times with the sense of privilege that saturated her recent writing. Terrible things happen without notice? Doctors are uninterested in patients? For these to be discoveries--well, you'd have to be white and rather privileged not to have learned these things by 35. Do I sound churlish? I don't mean to be. But it pains me to see one of my favorite writers succumb to the myth of herself.