Book Review: Blue Nights by Joan Didion

I have recently fallen in love with Joan Didion’s work. Here is my review of her newest memoir, Blue Nights. My review first appeared in and was published by Rachael Magazine.

Joan Didion’s latest memoir, Blue Nights, beautifully portrays her conversation with herself about the life and death of her daughter, Quintana Roo Dunne, in which she comes to terms with her loss and the fears that develop as a result of it. Although her grief is evident in her writing, her language is inviting, with the words and sentences flowing together in an honest but frail colloquy. Nonlinear and full of questions, Didion’s heartache and anguish are apparent in the way she knits her thoughts together.

More than just a book about the loss of her daughter, and the affliction that ensues, Didion’s memoir delves deeper and reveals the emotional complications that arise as a result of it. Fifty pages in, Didion confronts the real subject of the book, confessing to the reader that what folds in and unifies the memoir is the topic of fear, “this refusal even to engage in such contemplation, this failure to confront the certainties of aging, illness, and death” (page 54). She is afraid of illness, and of death, which are inevitable. Although she tells the reader that memories don’t bring  “solace,” that they only remind us of what we have lost when we no longer want to remember, she is afraid of losing the memories (page 64). She is afraid that the inevitable aging of her body and the illness it could bring will take away her ability to remember and to write.

Didion’s prose is equally private and public, reflecting moments of pain she feels deep in her soul, describing memories and feelings, and yet letting the reader in to share in her despair. The title, Blue Nights, is an illustration of her inability to think about anything other than the “inevitable approach of darker days” (page 134). The end of her book does not bring about a resolution or any sort of peace with the subject of her fear: “The fear is not for what is lost…the fear is for what is still to be lost” (page 188).

I highly recommend this book, to all those who love literature and appreciate the written word. It’s a fantastic read. It has taught me to pay close attention to words as I use them to create sentences, paragraphs, stories, and most of all, to pay close attention to life.

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