For whatever reason, this book did not work as well as Didion's wonderful The Year of Magical Thinking. There is an element of repetition in Blue NighFor whatever reason, this book did not work as well as Didion's wonderful The Year of Magical Thinking. There is an element of repetition in Blue Nights that did not portray the emotional and mental confusion of a woman who has lost her daughter. Rather, the repetition of the stories of how Didion came to adopt Quintana Roo and Quintana's later obsession with those details seems cloying, almost dull in their insistence on reliving the same emotion over and over even when it did not seem to matter in terms of what she was writing.
One of the biggest and most oft-levied criticisms of Joan Didion is how self-indulgent she is in terms of writing and some even extrapolate it into her own life (asking how self-indulgent one must be to name a child Quintana Roo). I never bought into that criticism that much because all autobiographical writing is self-indulgent to a point. But in this book I could see the accusation had some legs because as I read, I felt as if Quintana was a prop, not a person in her own right. Of course the book is Didion's reaction to her daughter dying, not her daughter's biography, but even taking that into account, in a book of how Didion reacted to her child's death, her child seemed filmy and far away. A person whose life only mattered because of how Didion reacted to her death.
One cannot condemn Didion for this - a book about grief has its own rules, I suspect. But it was a flat, tiring experience reading this book....more