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Blue Nights

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  25,356 ratings  ·  2,564 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 book by Joan Didion examines her thoughts, fears, and doubts regarding having children, illness, and growing old.
Blue Nights opens on July 26, 20
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published November 1st 2011 by Knopf
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Elizabeth Moore I can easily see what you are saying, but the reality is, that is life for some. Not you, not me -- but it does give some like us a glimpse of that ot…moreI can easily see what you are saying, but the reality is, that is life for some. Not you, not me -- but it does give some like us a glimpse of that other world. Not to negate what annoyed you in Blue Nights, I guess I found myself resonating with what Didion had to say about growing old-er. I put it that way, ie. old-er, because I refuse to accept being old (alas! 60 is not old, is it?). I also was able to see in my own relationship with my daughter what Didion says about hers with Quintana Roo.

For another glimpse into that world of LA, etc., consider Pat Conroy's South of Broad (which overall, I thought stunk majorly).

The beauty of literature, or any written word, is that it can speak to each of us in different ways. Thanks much for your comments.(less)

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Claire M.
Nov 11, 2011 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 12, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Jul 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
A brief yet heart-aching, poetic insight of grief relating the death of Didion's adult daughter Quintana.

It's in the blue nights that the questions, the grappling for answers plague us. As Didion explains this

'Blue Nights—the long, light evening hours that signal the summer solstice, "the opposite of the dying of the brightness, but also its warning"
Apr 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoirs
My first work by Didion, this is a follow up to The Year of Magical Thinking, where Didion wrote about the loss of her husband. This concerns the loss of Didion’s adopted daughter Quintana Roo (in 2005 at 39), not long after the death of her husband. Whilst Didion does cover the adoption of her daughter and some of her earlier life, but she also goes on to relate the effects of aging and her reflections on them.
Didion has worked with words for a living and she is good with them. Her ability to
Jennifer (Insert Lit Pun)
I loved this even more than The Year of Magical Thinking. Special shout-out to the goodreads reviews of this book that imply (and sometimes state) that it’s “not sad enough”—they gave me my first true, belly-deep laugh in weeks
Deborah Lott
Nov 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 15, 2012 rated it it was ok
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 mesh well & th
I had two contrary reactions while reading this book. The first: this is all just too private for publication. Didion, a sad, frail woman, grieving for all her lost friends and especially for her husband and daughter, feels compelled to torment herself with a detailed analysis of all the occasions when she may have failed as a parent, all the occasions when she thinks that she missed what her daughter was trying to tell her. Each photograph or memento which she describes becomes the occasion for ...more
Julie Ehlers
The scuttlebutt about Blue Nights is that it's really different from Didion's other work, and that is true. But it's not different in a bad way! Of the Didion books I've read, this struck me as the most poetic: Certain evocative phrases are imbued with significance and repeated throughout the text; I thought this was beautiful and effective and gave the book an almost obsessive quality that was completely appropriate. I'd been under the impression that Blue Nights was about Didion's daughter in ...more
Dec 29, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016
"In certain latitudes there comes a span of time approaching and rolling the summer solstice, some weeks in all, when the twilights turn long and blue."
-- Joan Didion, Blue Nights


It has been a decade since Joan Didion's daughter Quintana died. Joan Didion was 75 when she wrote this book. She wrote her first grief memoir The Year of Magical Thinking after her husband died in 2003. It dealt with her husband's death and her daughter's hospitalization (Quintana would later die in 2005 from pancreati
Oct 15, 2012 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
Nov 12, 2011 rated it it was ok
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 Thin
Hank Stuever
Nov 19, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Sep 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2011
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
Jan 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
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 and
"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
May 31, 2012 rated it really liked it

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
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
Nov 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
I very much enjoyed Joan Didion's A Year of Magical Thinking when I read it a couple of years ago, but had strangely not sought out more of her work in the intervening months. I finally requested a copy of the markedly poignant Blue Nights from the library, and ended up reading it in one sitting.

The blurb of Blue Nights describes the way in which Didion has used writing as a tool to try and make sense of a traumatic event in her life; it is a work which displays 'a stunning frankness about losin
Vincent Scarpa
Apr 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Reread, because I'm on a Didion binge. It's as heartbreaking as I remember it to be, but I'd forgotten that it's not without its moments of humor, either. As in:

"We had moved into that house in January 1971, on a perfectly clear day which turned so foggy that by the time I drove back to the house from a late-day run to the Trancas Market, three-and-a-half miles down the Pacific Coast Highway, I could no longer find the driveway. Since sundown fogs in January and February and March turned out to
Nov 16, 2017 rated it liked it
Quite sad, how events unfolded in Didion’s twilight years. There are several passages that are you so beautiful and elegiac. There is a sense of floating and free think in her grief and what sorts of thoughts enter in the years after her adopted daughter’s and husband’s deaths.

Ultimately, I felt Didion was not willing to to give the reader the benefit of the doubt, by trusting. I found her mightily reserved herself in pride and defensiveness. I would have appreciated more raw honesty in her grie
Sep 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Bon Tom
Mar 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
If there's beauty of sadness, this would be it. When you use the world of sadness that tries to inhabit the limited confines of your being, turning it into a piece of art (voluntarily or not, that is the question), you get Blue Nights.

When I think about it, the process might well be completely spontaneous, just the usual author's "creating the rhythm that tells me what I'm writing about". Because, there's disorder in this sadness, but what else could it be? If the entropy has color, it must be b
Dec 09, 2011 rated it it was ok
"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. T
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
Apr 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
As the pages progressed it occurred to me that their actual subject was not children after all, at least not children per se, at least not children qua children: their actual subject was this refusal even to engage in such contemplation, this failure to confront the certainties of aging, illness, death.
This fear.

I can’t tell if the collection of these memories was supposed to appear, like memories tend to be, fractured in structure. The bouncing around in time and the meandering way these storie
Deirdre Keating
Oct 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
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
Mia Coolpa
Dec 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: engaging
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
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
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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.

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