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3.9 out of 5 stars90
3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 18 December 2013
This is a magical book. It weaves spells to overcome confusion, loss and despair. Joan Didion can find the ingredients with which to conjure up value to attach to grief and hope to attach to none.
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on 19 July 2013
What a perceptive and self-aware lady. I felt this offered a real insight into unadorned grief, valuable to all as this is something everyone hass to deal with at one time or another
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on 10 June 2013
Chose this rating because of the very good price and the positive comments I found about the state of the books.
The book was in very good conditions, used but like new
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on 6 October 2005
Through the terrible losses she had to deal with as well as the coma her daughter was in, this author takes you through a journey of a lifetime. You will feel the emotions she felt, and they will ring true within your own world. A must read, especially for those that are reeling from a loss.
Also recommending: Song Of Cy by Katlyn Stewart- I bought the E-Book (Whiskey Creek)
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on 21 March 2012
I bought this book with a view to sending it to a friend who recently lost her husband to cancer.
Before sending it, I wanted to read through the book myself to see whether it was likely to provide some comfort or insights.
Reading the reviews on the book's first pages and given its literary awards, I expected something powerful and insightful. Sadly, it was a great disappointment.
Having lost a few very close friends over the years, I am not insensitive to the strange and at times unpredictable way in which grief and bereavement can play out for a person. Each situation is different.
Joan Didion presents a kind of 'Dear Diary' composite of her thoughts following the moments after her husband's massive and fatal heart attack, through the following year. Not surprisingly it weaves between present moments and past memories of people and places associated with her times with her late husband. Her situation is made all the more poignant by the fact that her adopted daughter is in intensive care at the time of her husband's death and undergoes a year of recovery and relapse.
Joan Didion experiences what many of us have or will experience at some stage in our lives; the loss of a close partner with whom we have shared much of our adult lives. Just as each of us must come to terms with our own mortality, in the same way, many of us must come to terms with such deep loss. Such events are non trivial and will frequently send a person into deep depression and in some cases may even push them over the edge. Certainly, Didion touches a cord, when she says that as a result of such an event 'life changes in an instant.'
In telling her own personal story about such experiences, Didion takes a courageous step; although I suspect that given her professional writing career, that writing down her thoughts is a natural therapeutic process with some cathartic properties.
However, whilst not meaning any disrespect, her thoughts are not particularly profound or insightful. Rather they represent an outpouring of her sense of loss and reflections on her memories stimulated by people and places she visits over the coming year. Such feelings are only natural for somebody in this situation; this is what makes the book very real, but at the same time somewhat bland.
I cannot understand how newspapers like the Guardian can review this as 'The book of the year . . . a heartbreaking, passionate book that offers no easy answers.' This tends to typify many of the book reviews on the first few pages. To my mind, it certainly did not rank as anywhere near being 'a book of the year'; although it is heartbreaking in parts as one might expect given its subject matter. I am not sure about the 'passion': 'honesty' seems a more appropriate word to describe its spirit. As for the fact it 'offers no easy answers', I think one would have to be a bit of a fool to expect any answers to these issues. Overall, it struck me that many of the reviews from leading publications such as the TLS, The Daily Telegraphy, The Daily Mail, The Daily Express, The Evening Standard, The Times, The Sunday Times, Spectator, New Stateman, The Economist and more are the product of a well connected literary figure. We all know that the reviews from many of these publications are a load of tripe, but in this instance it seems almost sacrilegious to attribute some of the qualities promoted by these reviews to a work that although courageous, is none the less pretty mediocre.
As commented by another reviewer on this site, 230 pages is far too long for what Didion has to say. It seems that the emotional strain on her as an author at a very emotionally charged and difficult time of her life was not effectively edited by her publishers. A tighter book of some 150 pages might have worked better for me, since it could have avoided a lot of the repetition of thought between its pages; consequently in parts it simply rambles. In fairness, the book is not totally bereft of merit and Didion does make some poignant observations, which almost anyone who has suffered the loss of a dear one would relate to easily. If one tempers one's expectations and approaches the work as a window into the world of one single person's entries into their personal diary over the course of a year, following the death of their husband, warts and all, then fair enough. Just don't expect anything too profound; in fact quite the opposite. This itself is surprising given the author's talent in fictional works; for someone with such talent and skill in the written word, she could probably have provided a much richer and perhaps broader reflection of her experiences with the passage of a little more time after the events.
In conclusion, I have decided that having read the book, I shall not be sending it to my friend. Again, as another reviewer has stated, good authors are not necessarily good auto-biographers; particularly, when dealing with such emotionally charged times in their lives.
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on 8 February 2014
Compulsive listening, extremely well read and full of deep insight into bereavement, grief, coping
and responses., I would highly recommend.
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on 23 January 2014
I really wanted to like this book and was looking forward to reading it.

However, it did not fulfil my reasons for reading it.

I had expected it to centre on Joan's experience of life after John's death; but a lot of it was spent in reflection of their life together.

For me personally, there was not enough information given and I found the constant interruptions of quotes really distracting.

There were moments when I felt that finally I was learning something about the woman, the man and their marriage, but then it would be curtailed very quickly with another flaming quote from some book or poem. I do not want to appear cruel or unempathetic, but I really felt sometimes that this was somehow a glossed over account that said more about her literary knowledge than anything else.

I certainly was expecting something other than this and maybe I am unable to understand the work because I thankfully have not had this life experience. I knew I had to read this book in one sitting because I would not pick it up again if I put it down.

I will probably in the coming days reflect on what I have read and maybe more will be revealed to me through that process; but for the present I am a little confused and disappointed by the work.
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on 23 January 2015
Heartrending ...My interest was more in Joan Didion rather than the subject of grief but it really was compelling reading..
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on 29 April 2014
This is one of those books that I end up underlining passages in! She is such a great writer. Read it. Just read it!!!
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on 23 July 2015
An interesting review on how the author was affected by a bereavement. Comforting for someone in the same position.
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