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Blue Nights

3.7 of 5 stars 3.70  ·  rating details  ·  12,166 ratings  ·  1,608 reviews
From one of our most powerful writers, a work of stunning frankness about losing a daughter. Richly textured with bits of her own childhood and married life with her husband, John Gregory Dunne, and daughter, Quintana Roo, this new book by Joan Didion examines her thoughts, fears, and doubts regarding having children, illness, and growing old.

Blue Nights opens on July 26,
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published November 1st 2011 by Knopf (first published 2011)
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Claire M.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
In certain latitudes there comes a span of time approaching and following the summer solstice, some weeks in all, when the twilights turn long and blue…you pass a window, you walk to Central Park, you find yourself swimming in the color blue…over the course of an hour or so this blue deepens, becomes more intense even as it darkens and fades…

As I type this, I wonder if I'd be so lucky as to come across a blue night tonight; the tranquil sight of a sky so clear, yet so blue. Deep blue. And yet
I wanted to like this book more than I did.

I am very sorry poor Joan D's husband died, and then her only child is dead. But, she writes this book in a confusing way, and I'm not sure what to make of it. Even the title phrase, which she tries to explain, is elusive to me.

I learned way more about her life and her daughter in her prior book (The Yr of Magical Thinking). That topic was the sad and sudden death of her husband.

This book is about the sad and not sudden death of her daughter, who die
I wrote a review for this & the computer ate it. I haven't the heart to try to rewrite the whole thing. Suffice to say that this book was not as sad as The Year of Magical Thinking although I expected it to be harder to bear. To lose a husband is one thing, but to lose a child far, far worse. Thinking about my son dying makes me literally sick to my stomach. I expected to be cut to bits by this.

I wasn't, which is good for me but bad for the book. The tiny intimate details that made Magical
Deborah A.
Well, it's probably blasphemy to say this, and I did give this book the highest possible rating, but some of Didion's stylistic methods: the lists, the questions, the coy mingling of abstract and concrete, were showing here. They felt like tricks rather than fluid means of transcending the personal and reaching the universal. I actually got annoyed with the narrator when she couldn't seem to answer her own interminable questions when the answers seemed obvious to me. Of course, if your mother ha ...more
The first chapter I hated her, (had not read her before), hated her celebrity name dropping, the Chanel suits, and what she named her daughter. By the end I was bawling.

I'm still not sure I like her. In Blue Nights, she writes brusquely, bluntly & without much metaphor, the repeatedly literal language is cloying and like an annoying OCD chant - but then she adds another small piece of the puzzle (I mean what is she getting at here you think) and then builds on that in the same manner over
Oct 15, 2012 Matt added it
In some ways Blue Nights , the grim companion piece to The Year of Magical Thinking, seems like the book Didion was put on earth to write--why else the long career as unsentimental witness recounting what she's seen without affect or excess? Here she turns her eye on the some of truest subjects of the human experience, the ones we avoid daily every way we can by spreading a fog of delusion around them: age, sickness, loss, and death. Didion writes with clarity and honesty about them all.

In anot
I was reading Blue Nights rather casually, with some distance, hoping to be pulled in when I came to the page where the narrator considers Quintana (her daughter’s) diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder. Even Joan Didion, our most skeptical of narrators toward the psycho-pharmo-medical-industrial complex notes that this odd diagnosis fit her perception of her daughter, if such things can be thought to fit. She writes that “diagnosis never seems to lead to a cure, only an enforced debility ...more
well. this was a huge disappointment. i loved the year of magical thinking, didion's memoir about the unexpected & sudden death of her husband, to which blue nights will inevitably be compared. the most positive thing i can say about blue nights is that its length (around 180 pages) & ginormous font make it a quick read.

this book is a mishmash memoir about the death of didion's adopted daughter quintana & didion's inability to come to terms with her own aging. the two topics don't me
Review coming...5th in line! Note to self: Do not cast your eyes on or in another written object until one (or more!) item(s) from your backlog of procastination is crossed off. Until then:

Blue Nights is a love letter from Joan Didion to her daughter Quintana Roo. Her faults are laid bare. I'm sure there are many more. Faults have no meaning to love felt. Children don't understand this with their unlived minds. Such is life. She lays her heart out, flayed. Her grieving a language we can feel. A
Hank Stuever
Would give it 3.5 stars if possible, or close to four. Didion has been my favorite writer for more than 20 years. This book is totally her, served raw. Only Joan Didion can get away with writing like Joan Didion. Otherwise, large parts of this book would be strangely embarrassing. I was struck many times by the lovely, forlorn quality of this book. But just as often, I was puzzled by her ability to withhold information, given that she is so singularly hailed as someone -- a journalist, in a way ...more
Mia Coolpa
Blue Nights is Act Two of Joan Didion's personal tragedy. And the second publication not previewed and edited by her late husband, writer/author John Gregory Dunn. Act One, The Year of Magical Thinking, published in 2005, recounts Dunn's unexpected death at the dinner table in 2003. Blue Nights, published in 2011, details the 2005 not-so-unxpected death of Didion's daughter, Quintana Roo, following an extended nightmare of physical and medical mayhem. Both memoirs are searing exposés of loss and ...more
"From one of our most powerful writers, a work of stunning frankness about losing a daughter. Richly textured with bits of her own childhood and married life with her husband, John Gregory Dunne, and daughter, Quintana Roo, this new book by Joan Didion examines her thoughts, fears, and doubts regarding having children, illness, and growing old.

Blue Nights opens on July 26, 2010, as Didion thinks back to Quintana’s wedding in New York seven years before. Today would be her wedding anniversary. Th
Evan Leach
Blue Nights is a memoir by Joan Didion, written after Didion’s daughter died of cancer at age 39. The book’s main focus is Didion’s relationship with her daughter, but it also addresses the author's own childhood and offers some very frank thoughts on old age and mortality in general.

I thought this book was OK. I picked it up because I’ve heard so many great things about Didion’s last book, The Year of Magical Thinking. That book tackles similar themes, which led me to give this one a try. There
I don't want to review this. Joan Didion knows exactly what the ding dang she's doing. She's still Joan Didion, still somewhat distant and removed from her subject matter, able to describe it all clearly, sometimes SO clearly it seems like she just floated through it all, invisible. I can't imagine her ever holding a baby, cooing it to sleep. She's Joan Didion! She's cool, she's California, she's wearing sunglasses, she's staring unsmiling into the camera. But the memories of Quintana that she r ...more
I love how immediate Blue Nights feels. As I read it, I felt Didion sitting beside me, sifting through her own thoughts and memories and trying to make some sense of her life, searching for answers to all of her many questions and ultimately, the question of life and death ("when we talk about mortality we are talking about our children").

Didion's gorgeous prose makes this a quick read, but the sheer intelligence and mental flexibility rewards a slower read. Blue feels like Didion is giving us

I went into this book prepared to have trouble with it. It took me close to three years to get over my Mom's death. I have not ever lost a child, despite two close calls. I just did not feel ready to read a book about mourning. I read it for a reading group.

Instead, I fell in love with Joan Didion. Here is a woman who has lived a long life, mostly in her mind. She has achieved respect, a good income, some say notoriety, by the use of her intellect. She had a long and happy marriage with a soul m
Deirdre Keating
Just when I've sworn off any more loss memoirs (after overindulging all fall)...but it's Joan Didion so this is going on the Christmas wishlist.

ETA: No longer on the wishlist as I devoured it in two sittings. No one is more readable to me than Didion, even here where she is more...more what? More elusive, more indulgent? No. More poetic? Maybe.

I wouldn't recommend this as an introduction to Didion; I imagine it would be a frustrating read. So much is going on here---it is not a memoir, or a book
Allie Chickie
I don't know that there is anyone who makes me want to write more than Joan Didion.

She is impeccable at her art and just reaches deep down inside and brings it out in me. The way she writes about her losses is so heartbreaking, so cataclysmic, but so incredibly relatable. Is there anyone who has loved, more than Didion? Is there anyone who has suffered more loss, than her? Is there anyone more honest, more sincere, more candid, than she is in every sentence?

I can't imagine how one goes on in l
Mary Ronan Drew
Blue Nights does not recapture the magic of The Year of Magical Thinking. That book was an extraordinary description and analysis of the pain Joan Didion experienced after the death of her husband, John Gregory Dunne, and not too much later, her daughter, Quintana Roo. It was surprising that the woman was able to track what her mind was doing, let alone to figure out why she was thinking, for example, that she should leave her husband's clothes in the closet. (Because if she kept the clothes, he ...more
"When we lose that sense of the possible we lose it fast." This line, appearing towards the end of Joan Didion's account of her daughter Quintana's early death, Blue Nights, sums up much of the book. Didion is describing the loss of youth, of illusions, of the people she loved, even the way she wrote. Suddenly, everything in her life has become uncertain and fragile.

In some ways, this book is a sad companion to Didion's brilliant book about the death of her husband, John Gregory Dunne, and her e
Joan Didion's Year of Magical Thinking was a deeply intelligent, heart-wrenching portrait of what it really felt like to have her husband of 40 years, John Gregory Dunne, die of a massive coronary failure in their Sutton Place living room while she was making dinner. Oh, and they had just got back from the hospital, where their only child, Quintana Roo, lay in coma due to complications from pneumonia. This was in December of 2003, and Magical Thinking came out two years later, and was definitely ...more
Luna Miguel
(Insepultos, a todos enterré
a todos lloré. ¿Y a mí, quién me llorará?
Anna Ajmátova)

Qué lectura tan placentera Noches azules de Joan Didion (Literatura Mondadori, 2012), pero no “placentera” por su contendido, que es más bien amargo y desgarrador, sino por su forma, su narración exquisita, sus ideas brillantes, su manera de contar algo tan íntimo y difícil de un modo aparentemente sencillo, lejos de resultar exhibicionista, apesadumbrado o llorica.

Y hablo de Intimidad Difícil porque lo que Noches
I thought The Year of Magical Thinking was harrowingly good, a book so saturated with grief and that whole I-can't-go-on-I'll-go-on thing that its overly mannered form functions as a kind of safety net. Form and style are what held Didion together as she described how everything had fallen apart. They were controllable when everything else was out of control. And so the mannerisms felt like protective gear, and far from distancing us from her pain made it all the sharper because it had to be hel ...more
This is about so much more than you might think, and it's said in so much less. I read this in one day, and then it seemed like yesterday.
Consider the ruminations of the mind, repetitively engaging the same scenerio with the goal of clarity and understanding. The writing of Joan Didion in BLUE NIGHTS resembles poetry in the sense that thoughts that are unclear to the author are repeated for emphasis and wondering. Without perspective, our unsolved ideas about self, conflicts, and events seem complex and indecipherable...with understanding, they appear simple, understandable and able to be absorbed in our lives. Understanding the d ...more
Larry Hoffer
In her magnificent 2005 memoir, The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion recounted the double blow of losing her husband, writer John Gregory Dunne, and then 20 months later, losing their adopted daughter, Quintana Roo, to an unexplained illness. The pain, anger, and sadness Didion felt radiated through every page of that book.

Blue Nights, Didion's follow-up, touches on many of the same themes of anger and loss, while focusing more on Quintana's life and untimely death. The book examines Quinta
Kathryn Bashaar
At first I thought I didn't like this book much, but you have to read it to the end to get the whole picture. I liked it more once I had finished it. The ending is lovely, and ties together Didion's grief for her daughter and grief at her own aging. Of course, she misses the comfort and care of a daughter as she ages, but also: when she herself is gone, nobody will remain who remembers her daughter's whole life.
The language in this book is beautiful, and I love the details like the red-soled sh
Zachary Zhao
Sentimental? Yes. Self-indulgent? Yes. Frustrating to read? Yes. Impossible to like? Yes. But Blue Nights is not a book to be liked. After all, how could you like a mother's mournful meditation over her daughter's untimely death? (Not that there is ever a death that is "timely", but losing both your husband and your daughter in the short span of twenty months has to be considered particularly untimely.)

Instead, Blue Nights is a book to be savored. It's sentimental because it is personal. It's se
Clif Hostetler
This book is written in the style of a self reflective memoir that ponders the author's (Joan Didion) grief of loss arising from the death of her daughter and the recognition of her own aging physical frailty. And as if this double personal calamity wasn't devastating enough, most readers will be aware (from the author's previous book titled “The Year of Magical Thinking”) that she became a widow a mere twenty months prior to her daughter's death.

I hope the author experienced some therapeutic b
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Joan Didion was born in California and lives in New York City. She's best known for her novels and her literary journalism.

Her novels and essays explore the disintegration of American morals and cultural chaos, where the overriding theme is individual and social fragmentation. A sense of anxiety or dread permeates much of her work.
More about Joan Didion...
The Year of Magical Thinking Slouching Towards Bethlehem Play It as It Lays The White Album A Book of Common Prayer

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“Memory fades, memory adjusts, memory conforms to what we think we remember.” 46 likes
“Do not whine... Do not complain. Work harder. Spend more time alone.” 46 likes
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