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.
©2011 Joan Didion (P)2011 Random House
Avid reader of classics and fiction, history and well-written genre novels. Music lover and huge audiobook fan.
I was so moved by this very beautiful memoir. The author tells the story of the loss of her beloved daughter with great intensity and lyrical beauty without an ounce of pity or sentimentality. It has music, rhythm and beautiful images to connect thoughts and emotions directly to the reader and to her experience of loss. This is a profound story of loss and of aging that memorializes the beloved child while connecting to the fading of her own life. I can only say that this book reached directly into my heart and soul and hit me in all of my senses. The author expresses thoughts and feelings with so much power and grace. The reader is excellent and reads with a speed and pace that matches the text and understands its rhythms. Highly recommended.
Didion makes you live in her skin
Joan Didion is the dominant character in the book. It is through her eyes that you see her daughter, her husband, parents and others of her circle. You feel as much as if you are in her skin as if it was a fictional tale with her being the fictional narrator.
Didion is a great writer. I am sure the book would be excellent in print form. Farr is a very good narrator. I was so sorry that the book was over.
I think it was the repetition, including the repitition of Quintana's remembered questions of her adoptive mother,
Joan Didion ~ again!
Joan Didion represented to me ~ in only ways that she can articulate ~ what it means to be a mother and what it means to be in the 'third chapter' of life. Her insights about the incidents and passages in life that we think are important as they are happening, in contrast to what, upon reflection and after the fact, are actually important, are exquisite.
I thought it was outstanding. At times I forgot that I was not listening to Joan Didion's voice.
The entire story is moving, but the ending touched me to the bone.
I recommend this book whether on audio or in print.
I read this just after finishing The Year of Magical Thinking and enjoyed both very much. The author reveals depths of parental doubt rarely acknowledged by modern parents.
The book contains reminiscences and reflections about the life and death of the author's adopted daughter who died after a prolonged illness in her mid-thirties. They are roughly chronologic, but there does not seem to be a particular meaning to the order of presentation. It feels more like someone pawing through a box of photographs. She paints a vivid picture of her daughter and her loss without being melodramatic or morose. A parent who loses a child is entitled to self-pity, but these moments are brief and poignant.
She discusses both her own difficulties about becoming a parent and her daughter's problems with bipolar disorder and the inevitable baggage of adoption. It is charming to hear how naive and vulnerable Mrs. Didion was about parenting and the passages detailing her daughter's bipolar episodes are heart-wrenching.
The book was very emotionally touching because she includes so many personal details and everyday events that you really feel like a family friend. Somehow, acknowledging so many doubts and flaws makes her not only sympathetic, but also capable--because she is engaging her problems.
The performance is very good. Clear and sincere without being too dramatic.
I would recommend the book to anyone interested in the grieving process or the difficulty of parenting.
I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - Salinger ^(;,;)^
In certain latitudes there comes a span of time approaching and rolling the summer solstice, some weeks in all, when the twilights turn long and blue."
-- Joan Didion, Blue Nights
It has been a decade since Joan Didion's daughter Quintana died. Joan Didion was 75 when she wrote this book. She wrote her first grief memoir The Year of Magical Thinking after her husband died in 2003. It dealt with her husband's death and her daughter's hospitalization (Quintana would later die in 2005 from pancreatitis. So, within about a year-and-a-half Didion would lose her husband and her daughter. Two deaths. Two books. The first primarily focuses on her husband's sudden death and her daughter's illness. The second focuses on her daughter and her own frailty.
Didion summarizes what she is after with this book in chapter 9:
"When I began writing these pages I believed their subject to be children, the ones we have and the ones we wish we had, the ways in which we depend on our children to depend on us, the ways in which we encourage them to remain children, the ways in which they remain more unknown to us than they do to their more casual acquaintances; the ways in which we remain equally opaque to them...
The ways in which our investments in each other remain to freighted ever to see the other clear.
The ways in which neither we nor they can bear to contemplate the death or illness or even aging of the other."
She then clarifies that what this novel became, however, was more "the refusal even to engage in such contemplation, this failure to confront the certainties of aging, illness, death."
This novel is better when she is using her knife to cut to the core of this failure, this fear, this inability to see people when they are here. This novel is genius when she is piercing the center of grief and exploring how grief is often the realization that memories often provide evidence to how unawake we were to the people we loved when it mattered, when they lived. How the fear of death also contains the seeds of knowledge. We begin to understand that those cherished memories of loved ones gone, will die with us. That with our own deaths those memories die forever. They vanish into the night. Our loved ones die twice.
This novel is weak, however, because at times it seems like a prose sorting of old memories. Like going through a loved ones box of sundries and remembering the whens, the whys, the hows. It is a bit scattered and while still good, it was just not great. It is also weak in her repetitions. I get what she was doing. The repetition of certain memories and phrases were like a mantra, a prayer, a devotion. It felt a little like Gertrude Stein, but lacked Stein's beauty or Didion's power. One of my least favorite of Didion's nonfiction.
The extreme emphasis on celebrity name-dropping, place name-dropping, and privilege. It seems the real story is short and sad, and that the stage-setting and background was about the wealthy environment Quintana had grown up in. It felt shallow.
I will review my choices more carefully.
I came to this book with high expectations because I enjoyed A Year of Magical Thinking. I have read and enjoyed almost everything else that Joan Didion has written, and will try to not let this experience influence future choices.
I loved the writing and the tale.
I believed it.
The relationship between the mother and her daughter was painful and powerful all at the same time.
If you like Joan Didian, you'll like this book.
Yes. I will listen to it again.
Pauses. Time to let thoughts sink in.
No more emotional than Didion's thoughts themselves, which, by their starkness, are moving. Often through their repetition.
Waiting for the next writings by Joan Didion.
having lost an only child I identified with Joan looking back over the memories - looking for a clue or sign to help understand the lost of a child along with some regrets & things you might have done differently. The book is a tribute to a mother's love for her child.
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