51 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant
This small book packs an enormous emotional punch. During the year of the title, not only does Didion have to come to terms with her grief over her husband's sudden death but she has to see her daughter through harrowing - and seemingly unexplainable - medical emergencies, including brain surgery. If this were fiction, you wouldn't believe it. Didion's straightforward and...
Published on 11 Sep 2006 by Ms. K. Hall
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Baffled as to how this book got its reputation of greatness
This book for me was a first. I read it and when I had finished I had utterly no idea how on earth to review it, because of the juxtaposition between the sensitive subject matter and my reaction to it. I had a sense that in criticising this book in any way, I was somehow a bad person, but as a review, I still have to be honest about what I thought of it.
Published 21 months ago by R. A. Davison
Most Helpful First | Newest First
5.0 out of 5 stars Lump In my throat,
4.0 out of 5 stars A very thoughtful read, well expressed and thought provoking,
This review is from: The Year of Magical Thinking (Paperback)A sad topic and not one that one can say is enjoyable but I thought it told very well. I am sure many people who have to face a sudden death must have had the same thoughts going through their minds but couldn't or felt it inappropriate to express. I recommend it to others.
5.0 out of 5 stars Grieving is healthy!,
This review is from: The Year of Magical Thinking (Paperback)For anyone who has lost someone they love and think they are going mad with grief then read this book, you will understand that everything you are feeling, seeing or saying is perfectly normal. This book should be available on the NHS it's much more effective than anti-depressants!
3.0 out of 5 stars Necessary reading,
the best time to read a book like this.I wanted to understand how it feels. I have been married for 25 years and this book made me appreciate my husband more. There were places in the book that I skimmed over, descriptions of dinners at the Ritz and Hawaiian holidays etc just annoyed me. I would recommend this book.
3.0 out of 5 stars Sad and Illuminating,
Sad, because, nine months ago, we lost my beloved father. I've had to watch my Mom grieve the end of one of life's grand love affairs - the passionate love affair between my parents, which lasted nearly 60 years.
Illuminating because, at times, Didion expresses her personal grieving in such a universal way that her loss became my Mother's loss. Didion gave a voice to the process of grief that my Mom, a widow, is experiencing and which I, a still-married daughter, have not yet experienced.
That Dunne brought deep meaning into Didion's life is unquestionable; her struggle to control or somehow change the events of that year, at times, makes fascinating reading because one senses that her emotions, her sens of loss are deep so that if she touched on them, she probably wouldn't cope.
But, while reading, I was struck by another level of sadness: at the hospital, which declared her husband dead, the social worker said of Didion's reaction, "It's okay; she's a pretty cool customer."
I constantly found myself asking, where ARE her emotions? What IS she feeling?
She could, and did, articulate the practical details of her year of grieving in microscopic detail, but there were times when I found her determined and strong-willed focus on medical facts, and the logistics of Dunne's death and her daughter's illness, disconcerting. Understandable, yes, and sad because it suggested a desperate attempt at mastering her overwhelming loss, but still disconcerting. She is, as the social worker said, "a pretty cool customer," and she manages to keep her deepest emotions very private.
The title of the book explains a lot: THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING. "Magical" to me has a wondrous, positive connotation; the word implies exciting events that take the ordinary and somehow transform them into the extraordinary. I only understood how Didion could apply it to the year following the death of her husband, a year in which her only child lay dying, when I looked up the meaning in the dictionary for this review.
Rather than the magic in her title meaning `an enchanting quality or phenomenon' or `wonderful, exciting,' the MAGICAL in Didion's title relies more on the definition of "magic" as `the supposed art of influencing the course of events by the occult control of nature or of the spirits.'
Because, to me, that's where the sadness in this book really lies: Didion's desperate desire to influence, to change by some power she didn't have, the death of her husband. And, even when, she couldn't "bring him back," she still had to go through the process of accepting that death is a part of life. That no matter how privileged, or intelligent, or talented, or lucky one is, no matter how many famous names one can drop, death comes to us all: "Golden lads and girls all must, as chimney-sweepers, come to dust." (Shakespeare, Cymbeline, Act IV, Sc ii)
For Didion, there was no magic in her year of grieving. No amount of intellectualising her grief could change that ordinary moment when, at the dinner table, her beloved husband died. He was gone and, to resume her life, she had to "relinquish the dead, let them go, keep them dead" and move into a future beyond grief and beyond mourning.
4.0 out of 5 stars A surprising read,
I didn't fully realise what the subject matter would be - an account of the year following the death of the author's husband - but I found the book engaging and insightful.
I am not a widow, but I have a friend who lost her husband last year, and although I didn't feel it was my place to recommend she read the book, I mentioned its existence to her. Having read it myself I found I was able to recognise and sympathise with some of what was happening to her.
The book is well structured and well written.
4.0 out of 5 stars Honest and Searing,
This review is from: The Year of Magical Thinking (Paperback)I read this book in one sitting. After losing my husband last year to a four month illness I found Joan's book opened doors in my mind to help me understand my grief.
The utter simplicity and honesty as she speaks about her feelings and reactions to her beloved husbands death made me feel far less alone in my emotions.
The every-day occurences and her daughters traumtic illness only added to the story and the journey that Joan was part of.
An admirable woman writer but a far greater human being.
[ASIN:B004Z7STUC Satan's Dance]]
4.0 out of 5 stars Joan Didion-year of Magical Thinking,
This review is from: The Year of Magical Thinking (Hardcover)It is an oft-quoted truism that, of a loving couple, one of you must die first.
"The Year of Magical Thinking" is an eloquent and nostalgic account of sudden widowhood. Didion's spare prose captures the essence of loss and the severance of a longstanding and intimate relationship.
The final message of acceptance and hope will comfort those who find themselves in the same situation and is an outstanding addition to this author's oeuvre.
32 of 43 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Give this a miss, not up to the hype,
This review is from: The Year of Magical Thinking (Paperback)Am I the only person who found this book boring?
It has already been awarded the 2005 National Book Award for non-fiction and 2006 Powell's Puddly Award for n-f, and is this month's Daily Mail monthly book. What does everyone see in it?
Of course I have every sympathy with Ms Didion in her loss, compounded by her daughter's life threatening illness, enough to drive any sane person to a break-down. And maybe writing this helped her cope, I'm fine with that. Unfortunately I just found her writing so repetetive that the interesting parts were masked. How many times did she quote "life changes fast, life changes in an instant"? It's not such an unusual or profound observation.
This should have been kept as a private memoir for personal healing and not published for general consumption, at the very least, a short 100/125 pages would have been enough.
20 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mourning, Grief, Disappointment,
By A Customer
This review is from: The Year of Magical Thinking (Hardcover)I was disappointed with this book. Joan Didion is a wonderful writer and one can only be 100% sympathetic with her over her husband's death. Her decision to write a book about the grieving process and her feelings for a year after his death is courageous. Yet I expected more. I expected some fresh or original thoughts on the death of a loved one: here all we get are the predictable sad events as the reality of the loss slowly sinks in. It is written with integrity and sincerity, of course, but if you took out the quotations (from medical texts, Freud, Emily Post, previous work by the author and her husband John Gregory Dunne), repetitions of certain key-phrases, you would be left with a long essay, not a book. I have read all Joan Didion's books. This is by no means her best. Why are people so afraid to say "The Emperor is wearing no clothes"? She has made a great effort but has not come up with anything with depth or originality. I'm sorry, this book simply didn't deliver for me.
Most Helpful First | Newest First
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion (Paperback - 4 Sep 2006)