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Erika

Santa Barbara, CA, USA

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  • The Year of Magical Thinking

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 5 mins)
    • By Joan Didion
    • Narrated By Barbara Caruso
    Overall
    (1328)
    Performance
    (451)
    Story
    (455)

    "Life changes fast....You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends." These were among the first words Joan Didion wrote in January 2004. Her daughter was lying unconscious in an intensive care unit, a victim of pneumonia and septic shock. Her husband, John Gregory Dunne, was dead. The night before New Year's Eve, while they were sitting down to dinner, he suffered a massive and fatal coronary. The two had lived and worked side by side for nearly 40 years.

    Darwin8u says: "Sharp, sometimes funny, but always clear & precise"
    "disappointing but heartfelt"
    Overall

    I wanted very much to *love* this book. It fell short of my expectation. It was my first introduction to Joan Didion, and she did a very good job of reading it herself. (Can't you just hear the "but" coming....?)

    But....
    while Didion's book works in both the raw, emotional detritus from her grief and the clinical research studies that she depended on to lead her through the grief process, the word "pretentious" kept coming to mind as I listened to this book.

    I say "pretentious" because Didion's constant references to her glamorous literatti lifestyle are very distracting. As one example, she speaks about visiting her daughter in the hospital in LA, and how worried she was about money, and then proceeds to describe the luxury hotel in which she lives for a month.

    Didion's mannerisms are also irritating. Every time she references bringing her baby daughter home from the hospital -- which is a LOT of times -- she includes the name of the hospital and the city: "Saint John's Hospital in Santa Monica..." It's a bizarre affectation that grated on my ears and nearly led me to turn off the darn book.

    Despite Didion's being in a somewhat different orbit than most people I know, her delicate exploration of grief was done well. It meanders, and criss-crosses time, but I think that accurately illustrates how grief makes people reel, as if there's no reliable context for them to continue their living.

    30 of 34 people found this review helpful

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