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Saturday, March 5, 2016

Book Review ‘Blue Nights’ by Joan Didion


We live with a certain expectation about the possibility of burying a spouse and even more certainty about out living our parents, however, most of us do not even entertain the idea of outliving one of our children.


Despite living the glamorous life of an innovative, successful author, Joan Didion's life has left her to cope with more than her fair share of tragedy. In the narrative, Blue Nights, the beloved author shares her experience as the mother of a unique, yet deeply troubled daughter, Quintana Roo.

Without smoothing the dark edges, Ms. Didion exposes raw, intimate details about her life with her husband John Gregory Dunne, fear of motherhood and her perceived inadequacies during her daughter's formative years. She questions the effect her and her husband's demanding careers had on their daughter. In fact, as most mothers would, she questions everything.

Obviously, Joan Didion’s safe place is in front of a keyboard and I felt as if I was with her writing therapeutically through her grief. True to her form, she paints a fascinating picture of a bygone era of carefree parties and the indulgences that the couple along with their friends and colleagues enjoyed. They drank, smoked and uprooted their child for the sake of the stories they wrote and the social groups they entertained. This was a time of innocence as humanity was innocent and ignorant about the dangerous effects these things have on a family.

Her adored daughter clearly suffered from mental illness and addiction. Unfortunately, Ms. Didion's Quintana Roo was deeply troubled and the lifestyle unlikely had an effect on her daughter's tragic end.

The narrative is eloquent, sweet, touching and more tragic than The Year of Magical Thinking, but Blue Nights is a must read especially for Joan Didion fans.

Review by Sammy Sutton