NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A work of stunning frankness about losing a daughter, from the bestselling, award-winning author of The Year of Magical Thinking and Let Me Tell You What I Mean
Richly textured with memories from her own childhood and married life with her husband, John Gregory Dunne, and daughter, Quintana Roo, this new book by Joan Didion is an intensely personal and moving account of her thoughts, fears, and doubts regarding having children, illness and growing old.
As she reflects on her daughter’s life and on her role as a parent, Didion grapples with the candid questions that all parents face, and contemplates her 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 profound.
Loss has pursued author Didion relentlessly, and in this subtly crushing memoir about the untimely death of her daughter, Quintana Roo (1966 2005), coming on the heels of The Year of Magical Thinking, which chronicled the sudden death of her husband, John Gregory Dunne, Didion again turns face forward to the harsh truth. "When we talk about mortality we are talking about our children," she writes, groping her way backward through painful memories of Quintana Roo's life, from her recent marriage in 2003 to adorable moments of childhood moving about California in the 1970s with her worldly parents and learning early on cues about how to grow up fast. While her parents were writing books, working on location for movies, and staying in fancy hotels, Quintana Roo developed "depths and shallows," as her mother depicts in her elliptically dark fashion, later diagnosed as "borderline personality disorder"; while Didion does not specify what exactly caused Quintana's repeated hospitalizations and coma at the end of her life, the author seems to suggest it was a kind of death wish, about which Didion feels guilt, not having heeded the signs early enough. Her own health she writes at age 75 is increasingly frail, and she is obsessed with falling down and being an invalid. Yet Didion continually demonstrates her keen survival instincts, and her writing is, as ever, truculent and mesmerizing, scrutinizing herself as mercilessly as she stares down death.
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.
Lovely. Beautifully written. Moving. Sad. Lovely.
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.