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The Year of Magical Thinking Paperback – 4 Sep 2006

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Product details

  • Paperback: 227 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (4 Sept. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007216858
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007216857
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,738 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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‘It is the most awesome performance of both participating in, and watching, an event. Even though Didion does not allow herself to break down, only a terribly controlled reader will resist doing the same.’ John Freeman, Independent

‘Ultimately, and unexpectedly for a book about illness and death, this is a wonderfully life affirming book.’ Lisa O’Kelly, Observer

‘Searing, informative and affecting. Don’t leave life without it.’ Financial Times

‘This is a beautiful and devastating book by one of the finest writers we have. Didion has always been a precise, humane and meticulously truthful writer, but on the subject of death she becomes essential.’ Zadie Smith

‘Taking the reader to places where they would not otherwise go is one of the things a really good book can do. “The Year of Magical Thinking” does just that, and brilliantly. Powerful, moving and true.’ Cressida Connolly, Spectator

‘A great book, a great work. Angular, exact, pressured and tough, precise as a diamond drill bit.’ Nick Laird

From the Publisher

The cover design is a limited edition print (1 of 2000) by Bob Crowley.

Bob Crowley is an award-winning theatre director, scenic and costume designer. He has worked extensively on Broadway and at The Royal National Theatre and The Royal Shakespeare Company in the UK. He was the designer for the stage adaptation of The Year of Magical Thinking. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Graceann Macleod on 10 Aug. 2008
Format: Hardcover
Joan Didion lost her husband, John Gregory Dunne, as they were sitting down to dinner on December 30, 2003. What follows is an amazing journey (one that hadn't been completed by the end of the book) through the deals we make with ourselves and with the World in order to avoid the unavoidable. This is NOT an inspirational story. It is raw, difficult to read, heartbreaking.

What is present in the telling is what the reader brings to it. Speaking for myself, I could thoroughly understand Didion's decision not to part with John's shoes, because he would need them "when he came back." Her coming back from a walk with news for him only to get all the way to the apartment before remembering. These are things that I have done, and until I sat down to read The Year of Magical Thinking, I thought I was the only one who grieved this way.

Didion spends a good deal of time on society's insistence that we not "dwell on" our grief or indulge in "self pity." The truth is that it is healthy to grieve, and that it has its own timetable for every single person who goes through it. This is one person's experience; it may not be yours, but it is educational in many ways. I find it amazing that the most accurate depiction of how to take care of a griefstricken person comes from a 1922 Emily Post book on etiquette. All these years later, and we have gotten farther from what is needed, not closer. This, for obvious reasons, saddened me more than anything I read in Year of Magical Thinking.

Knowing that shortly after Year was released, Joan Didion also lost her beautiful daughter, Quintana, only makes the experience more bitter. I am so grateful to Joan Didion for sharing her experience. I usually trade books after I've finished reading them - this one, I placed back on the shelf so that I can re-read, study and learn in future years.
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61 of 65 people found the following review helpful By Debra Morse on 3 Jun. 2006
Format: Hardcover
From the moment one picks up this poignant memoir one passes into a world slightly softer, slightly muted, and slightly off track from the every day. The very tone of Didion's prose conveys the muffled sensibility she must have been experiencing the entire first year after her beloved husband's sudden death from cardiac failure. It's a magnificent work, done with stellar craftsmanship. Didion manages to explore her grief, and the people and events surrounding it, via methods that are neither whiny nor self-indulgent, but which border on the fantastic and which are ultimately instructive. John surely is beaming at her from his current dimension.

Her introspection is extremely clinical in its self appraisal and criticism. She acknowledges madness, horror, confusion, and every other emotion on the roller-coaster of acute grief. Like many of us, when she experiences a gap in understanding she turns to books, the ultimate givers of wisdom. When these betray her by failing to illuminate, she turns to logic and, finally, to observation.

This Buddhist like observation is mesmerizing. Readers cannot help but relate their own life experiences to Didion's struggle to make sense out of the insensibility of death, and be comforted.

Every physical detail of this book is strategic, and I loved discovering each of these tangible tributes. From the dust cover, lettered in black and blue (red and gold in the UK), with the blue spelling out `John', to the back cover photo with John and Quintana regarding the photographer while Joan focuses her gaze on them, to the author photo on the back flap, depicting a pale elegant woman clearly changed by harsh events, the entire effort is beautifully complete.
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36 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Reader on 22 Dec. 2006
Format: Paperback
Joan Didion's gifts lie in her unique ability to analyse what she observes in a personal way without moving into the more flash regions of gonzo journalism. She's an engaging and breezy essayist, intelligent but not an intellectual. Self-aware but not self-indulgent or self-obsessed. She's an excellent writer, observer, and witness of our times.

In this book, she turns her questioning heart and analytic mind to the sudden and unexpected death of her husband and her grieving over his loss while dealing with the grave illness of her daughter. Heavy material, yes, but she writes with courage, style, wit, and both depth and luminosity of heart.

This book is a gift to anyone who has grieved, or who is grieving. Why? Because Grief is such an isolating, isolated place to be -- even with all the support in the world -- and I fully feel that this book is able to actually help a person to feel less alone in the face of loss and death. Joan Didion accomplishes this not by offering us any answers, but by sharing her confusion and pain with us in the only way she knows how -- as a writer. And she shares so fully and generously -- and with such honesty of heart -- that one cannot but be moved and helped along, and made to feel less alone and probably more able to cope with life and death.

Writing and reading can be life-saving experiences. Alice Walker said that, when we write, 'the life we save may be our own'. I get the feeling that Joan Didion, by sharing her story with us, is saving her own life and also may be saving the lives of others as well. The title of Joan Didion's latest collection is 'We Tell Stories in Order to Live'.

I found, after I had read this book, that Joan Didion's daughter died soon after it was written -- the author lost her husband and her daughter in less than two years. Listen to this woman's story: she is humble and she is wise.
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