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A Book of Common Prayer

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  2,735 Ratings  ·  259 Reviews
Writing with the telegraphic swiftness and microscopic sensitivity that have made her one of our most distinguished journalists, Joan Didion creates a shimmering novel of innocence and evil.A Book of Common Prayer is the story of two American women in the derelict Central American nation of Boca Grande. Grace Strasser-Mendana controls much of the country's wealth and knows ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published April 11th 1995 by Vintage International (first published 1977)
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Truro Fab Rental Think about the destiny for each major character; Charlotte, Grace, Warren and Marin.

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Oct 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: americana
Il libro delle preghiere comuni è il testo base della comunione anglicana.
Mi chiedo se le preghiere comuni sono quelle più semplici, o invece comuni sta per collettive.

E mi chiedo cosa abbia a che fare con questo romanzo, visto che il titolo originale è proprio A Book of Common Prayer.
Domanda che rimane senza risposta, un grosso punto interrogativo dalla prima all’ultima pagina. Mai incontrato titolo più enigmatico.

Da tempo è previsto un adattamento cinematografico di questo ma
Read this for the superbly nasty Warren Bogart, a villain righteous in his contempt, critically intricate in his abuse, and for that worthy of the narrator's single sympathetic glance his way. Charlotte Douglas, his ex-wife, is the kind of female character Didion is known for: numb, baffled, drifting in and out. I don't find characters like Charlotte very interesting, but Didion does milk a kind of poetry from their stunting and disappointment, their air of unfulfillment; and Didion's portraits ...more
Oct 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Didion is one of those rare authors that pens hypnotic sentences that weave into paragraphs that make you struggle to recall where you are and why there's drool on your chin. It doesn't matter if she's writing about a fictional banana republic or a non-fictional bout of depression from having outlived her husband and daughter, JD writes sentences that I want to climb into like a warm bed. Ones like this:

As a child of the western United States she had been provided as well with faith in the valu
This starts out feeling like one of those Deborah Eisenberg stories set in a made-up Central American country, but pretty soon you orient yourself and realize you're in deliciously dated late-1970s Didionland. This entails being surrounded by characters who think, speak, and behave only like Joan Didion characters and not remotely like anyone in actual life, and reading gorgeously crafted and sometimes embarrassingly dramatic sentences. The novel is narrated by steely, Didionesque observer Grace ...more
As I had recently read The Last Love Song: A Biography of Joan Didion, I decided I' wanted to read some of Joan Didion's novels. This is the first one I read.

It's mainly set somewhere in Central America, about an American woman who is living there, for reasons which are never really fully explained, and narrated by another woman who owns almost the whole place.

It's really kind of a strange novel, without much in the way of a discernible plot, and the dialogue is really weird, with most of it not
Cymru Roberts
Mar 07, 2016 rated it liked it
Maybe there is no motive role in this narrative.
Maybe it is just something that happened.
Then why is it in my mind when nothing else is.

IN SUMMARY the above quote explains the entire novel. Of course “novel” is a loaded word when it comes to Didion; her journalistic essays and her fiction-prose always blur, which makes for awesome journalism and perplexing prose. I am perplexed as to why this novel exists. When I was finished with it – and I was glad that I was; too much time spent in such a sti
Oct 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, i-spy
Several times during Joan Didion's Book of Common Prayer, one character will tell another that they "were wrong." In what almost seems irrelevant. Causes, love, politics, are all compromised. Wrongness is an empty term hardly worth the air it takes to utter the word. Nearly everyone is on the make. Lawyers can champion radical movements one day, hobnob with the beautiful people that night, and fly to Miami the next in order to seal a deal for Mirage jets. Air head college students join revolutio ...more
Charlotte Douglas, in transito.

La bella e misteriosa Charlotte, la fica norteamericana, come la chiamerà con disprezzo uno dei padroni del luogo, arriva a Boca Grande, la città in cui la luce è abbagliante e seducente, senza un perché, in fuga dalla vita, ma molto più probabilmente in transito, com'è sempre stata in ogni luogo ove abbia messo radici. O forse per restare per sempre.
Ce la racconta Grace, anche lei norteamericana, erede e moglie dell'ultimo grande padrone di Boca Grande, l'unica ch
Nate D
Apr 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Like Play It As It Lays, this is a supremely disillusioned novel -- in people, in politics -- but the theater across which it plays out is sprawling and unique, from the pitch black personal-destructive recesses of the deep south to the revolutionary conflagrations of a small South American dictatorship. Ostensibly the story is Charlotte's, a complexly-shaded women adrift in her life until she washes up in Boca Grande, but equally fascinating, and obsessively observed, is our narrator, Grace, an ...more
Sentimental Surrealist
The way I see it, Joan Didion's career breaks into three big phases. In the '60s and '70s, she made her name as the chronicler of how the dominant culture and counterculture clashed and coexisted - you get this from her famous collections Slouching Towards Bethlehem and The White Album (my favorite of hers), as well as her only novel to slip into the canon, Play It as It Lays. Then the global tumult of the '80s hit, with the Shah and the unholy right-wing alliance of Ronald "Satan" Reagan and Ma ...more
Sara Mazzoni
Nov 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Sfolgoranti i primi capitoli, nei quali la scrittura saettante di Joan Didion sbozza personaggi e contesto con straordinaria abilità. Ne esce un esilarante ritratto familiare dei governatori di Boca Grande, piccolo paese dell’America Latina dove il potere viene trasmesso a colpi di finte rivoluzioni e complotti demenziali (in puro stile Bananas). Il romanzo prende una piega melodrammatica quando si concentra sulla protagonista Charlotte Douglas e sulle sue dolorose vicissitudini, spostandosi ava ...more
Oct 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful book. Didion is a genius. It's interesting to read something that was written so long ago, it seems another lifetime--and yet I was alive when it was written. The times were a-changing and the world that they lived in was so very different from what it became by the time I was an adult.

At some point, I was struck by some similarities between this book and another book that I really loved, Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett. Neither is a real, named place (although Bel Canto seems to be based o
Aug 21, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lo stile.
Lo stile litanico, sincopato, minimale.
Lo stile litanico e sincopato all'inizio mi ha intrigato, ma alla fine mi ha abbastanza irritato.

E' una storia in cui tutti i personaggi si parlano poco o nulla, sicuramente non si capiscono tra loro e le cose se le mandano a dire.

Tre stelle per il contesto, ma molto frammentario.
Dalla lettura non si ricava molto.
Almeno io.
E di Yates, non ho trovato nulla.
Nov 22, 2013 rated it did not like it
I can't remember the last time I was as grateful for a book to finally end. I think the author gave us a hint on page 164: "Maybe there is no motive role in this narrative." I really, really didn't enjoy the assumptive characters or their privileged drama. I wouldn't spend ten minutes in the company of anyone in this book in real life, so I'm not sure why I did spend so much time reading about them.
Jul 14, 2010 rated it it was ok
In some ways, similar to American Pastoral by Roth. Both with psychologically tormented protagonists, both with demented terrorist daughters. The drawback to A Book of Common Prayer is that Joan Didion's characters and narrator are lofty and bourgeoisie, but are also cold and hard to identify with. Charlotte Douglas is not as tormented nor driven as The Swede, and Marin never develops into a character with any substance, let alone the brilliance, like Merry's.

Maybe I am daft, but I did not feel
Dec 08, 2006 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all
First of all, despite the title, this is not a Christian book about praying and shit like that. It’s a novel about human dislocation and the intractability of delusion, set against the backdrop of Central American revolution. Didion is best known for her nonfiction, but I proselytize for her novels every chance I get.
Francesca Marciano
Mar 27, 2017 rated it liked it
I read this book a long time ago. I remember liking it much more then than I did now. I loved The Year of magical thinking, I loved Blue Nights and South and West. But here, in this early fictional work, her voice sounds too contrived, her writing seems forced, too removed. The repetitions. The short sentences. I felt an affectation that irked me. So three stars because i can't deny it, Didion is a masterful writer nevertheless.
Jan 04, 2010 rated it liked it
If _Play It as It Lays_ was Didion doing Chandler, this is her version of a Graham Greene novel, whereby a sophisticated viewer in a small former colony (in this case the Latin American Boca Grande) learns that the naivete of a stranger is the proper way to encounter the world.

Here, the sophisticate is the American-born wife of a former dictator of Boca Grande, and the innocent abroad is Charlotte, mother of a girl gone radical terrorist in the sixties, who has washed up in Boca Grande for, well
Mar 01, 2011 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Young women trying to 'find themselves' in Central America
Recommended to Adam by: Chelsey
Shelves: fiction, caribbean
I just, didn't get it. Yes, it's a eulogy and there's a lot going on and Charlotte was kind of a crack pot of a person and her life was a reflection of that, but, I just, didn't get it.

I was excited to read Didion's acclaimed fiction after having been passed an essay she wrote that I found particularly vivid. However, I was disappointed in her storytelling, which, honestly is likely only personal preference.

The past few novels I've read have been epic-realistic-tales. I got frustrated reading Ke
Jeff Jackson
Jul 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club-1
The first time I read this, the Latin American scenes stayed with me, but this time I was knocked out by the travelogue section set in the Deep South, which weirdly kept evoking moments from the banned Rolling Stones tourfilm 'Cocksucker Blues.' Then there's the great New Orleans dinner party scene, which is as vivid as anything in 'The Moviegoer.'

There's so many loaded cultural details packed into the prose and the story accumulates in such odd spasms that this isn't nearly as immediate as 'De
Rebecca SC
Jun 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is one of my favorite books of all time. Joan Didion has an incredible way of crafting flawed yet accessible people, with incredibly beautiful and resonant language that is not overly complicated. She uses the words she needs to give you the ideas she has. I wish I still had the copy I read in college, marked with highlights and comments written on almost every page. I devoured this book, I didn't just read it, and many of her images and turns of phrase have lasted with me to this day.
Jun 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
"I have not been the witness I wanted to be."
Aug 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“La paura del buio è una combinazione di quindici amminoacidi”
Una lettura eccellente, potente e sintetica. La storia è ambientata in uno staterello del Centro America dal colpo di stato facile, nel quale vive spiaggiato un piccolo gruppo di norteamericani d'alto bordo: l'atmosfera è resa benissimo, mi ricorda l'amato Graham Greene. Il racconto è affidato a una donna di cui si vuole suggerire l'imparzialità ricordando la formazione da antropologa, diventata poi studiosa dilettante di biochimica (
Jun 02, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: general-fiction
This was originally published on The Scrying Orb.

Joan Didion is one of my favorite authors and working through her fiction, I can basically bullet-point what a book will contain:

- A detached heroine, probably in her thirties. A woman becoming unhinged.
- Cruel men in positions of power over the heroine, who have jobs that give them financial and social clout that allow them to be 100% assholes without much consequence (lawyers, producers, etc). The men may be just as detached as the women, but
Dec 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A bit inflated of a score but meant to be taken in the context of what I'm reading lately. A book about awful people who are more than a bit off-putting and unrelatable in their Carribean bourgeoisie. Yet a book that makes fewer pretenses about being a Great American Novel than similarly structured plots in our literature. I found it to be reminiscent of American Pastoral but enjoyed the women's narration and subjective focus. Maybe it seems a bit dated reading it now, with plane travel so easy ...more
May 03, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2010
Imagine looking at an artist at work. He begins with pencil sketch on an empty paper. Right now with a little imagination we can see what he’s trying to draw, that circle maybe the head, flowing line for hair, the outline of body, arm, feet. Then he picks up his pen. Our artist might decide to start from the face; he has a very clear image in his mind so he works straight away in detail. Eyes, nose, mouth, expression, face outline emerge. Next he moves his hand starting to give detail to locks o ...more
Jul 23, 2015 rated it liked it
This book tells the story of a dysfunctional bourgeois family, with the seventies era Berkeley dropout daughter going terrorist, her globetrotting mom searching for "something," her self-righteous and bombastic dad, and a seemingly kind step-dad who is professionally a not-so-kind internationally-connected power lawyer. Didion is a talented writer, and while the style might seem less innovative, and at times repetitive, to certain contemporary eyes and ears, this book was cleverly arranged to de ...more
Mar 30, 2009 rated it liked it
Easily the most depressing thing I've read in years (with the possible exception of the collected stories of Amy Hempel, which, as the NYT review says, should not be read all in one go). Woman lives life barely connected to it, dissembles, is used, lives life of quiet desperation, eventually ends up in soul-crushing tropics to die.

I CAN'T FINISH IT. No really, I don't do this with books, but I'm stopping with 100 pages to go. Sorry, Charlotte, I just can't bring myself to see what (or rather, h
Colin Anton
May 11, 2014 rated it liked it
A week of uncommon prayer:

"Dear God, is there any likable characters in this book?"
"Dear God, will there be a plot? Please, I beseech and implore you..."

An interesting character study of a feminine soulless spirit at its worst (the spirit, not the character study). Ruminations of apathy and mortality, motherhood and marriage, American expatriatism and Latin chauvinism, and most of all, running from the past only to unfortunately meet it in the future. Not uplifting. Wish I had read it during a s
Mar 06, 2015 rated it it was ok
A skillfully written but oddly unlikeable book detailing the crossed paths of a cold, analytical narrator and the star of the show, Charlotte Douglas. Charlotte is puppet and heroine, burned out trophy wife and battered survivor, ignorant of history and literature, but constantly reading. She drifts in and out of stores, in and out of beds, and in and out of reality. I will probably add a star or two as I realize that I am continuing to think about the book long after finishing it, but I did not ...more
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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...
“That Episcopal day school Marin attended from the age of four until she entered Berkeley had as its aim "the development of a realistic but optimistic attitude," and it was characteristic of Charlotte that whenever the phrase "realistic but optimistic" appeared in a school communique she read it as "realistic and optimistic.” 2 likes
“I am an anthropologist who lost faith in her own method, who stopped believing that observable activity defined anthropos.” 1 likes
More quotes…