This whole book describes events and stories throughout the lives of Joan Didion and her family, and it serves as a way for her to express her grief and try to come to terms with the death of her husband of 40 years, all during a year of what she calls "magical thinking."
It's not an entertaining read. It offers some insight on marriage and family, but overall I felt like I was reading something far too personal, a diary of sorts, something that anyone else might write but never publish. Obviously, since it is Joan Didion, the language, the prose, the style, everything about it flows and stops, flies by and slows down in a pleasing rhythm of words, but nothing about the topic is easy to read.
She studies her grief like a med student studies biology, analyzing the various processes that are happening in her mind, causing the sometimes strange and often random thoughts and ideas with which she is constantly struck.
The immediate comparison that comes to mind is with C.S. Lewis' "A Grief Observed," a comparison that Didion points out herself. The difference, though, is that with Lewis' work, I felt like I suffered through much of the grief with him and finished the book feeling a sense of catharsis and ability to move on. Didion's I felt neither of those things; it simply felt like reading her diary. And perhaps that was the point, but in the end I felt that I should not have read the book, and that's never something I like to feel after finishing a book.
Joan Didion, one of America's foremost journalists and writers, tackles a universal experience in The Year of Magical Thinking, that of dying, death, loss and grief. Ever the practitioner of the literary succinct and eloquent-trademarks of Didion's writing style-she explores these themes and global experiences via her own personal tragedies, i.e. the sudden 2003 death of her husband-of nearly forty years of marriage-in their apartment and their daughter, Quintana's severe ill-health. … more
Click here to read the book quotes. Originally, I read this book as a way to cope with a lot of family deaths that occurred during a difficult time in my life. It was recommended by a user of the Yahoo Cafe Libri Group, but it didn't live up to my expectations. Perhaps the disconnection lay in the fact that Didion suffered from the loss of a spouse whereas my grief was more distant: my cousin, grandmother, uncle, and great uncle all died in relative … more
Many years ago Joan Didion was featured on C-Span's BookTV. I don't have many writers which register as rock stars, but for me, Didion is definitely one of them. The show had a call-in period. I didn't expect to get through, but low and behold after a few busy signals, did in fact get through to ask a question to one of my literary idols. I wish I could say I asked her a phenomenal, insightful question and that her face showed she was impressed with my knowledge … more
The Year of Magical Thinking (2005), by Joan Didion (b. 1934), is an account of the year following the death of the author's husband John Gregory Dunne (1932–2003). Published by Knopf in October 2005, the book was immediately acclaimed as a classic in the genre of mourning literature. It won the National Book Award in November 2005 and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award as well as the Pulitzer Prize for Biography/Autobiography