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The Year of Magical Thinking

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  110,198 Ratings  ·  8,452 Reviews
'An act of consummate literary bravery, a writer known for her clarity allowing us to watch her mind as it becomes clouded with grief.'

From one of America's iconic writers, a stunning book of electric honesty and passion. Joan Didion explores an intensely personal yet universal experience: a portrait of a marriage–and a life, in good times and bad–that will speak to anyone
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Paperback, Vintage International (US / Canada), 227 pages
Published February 13th 2007 by Vintage (first published September 1st 2005)
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Kathryn Hurn Linda, I just finished reading this book this morning. Didion writes her stream of consciousness about her loss when her husband dies and the equally…moreLinda, I just finished reading this book this morning. Didion writes her stream of consciousness about her loss when her husband dies and the equally lostness and helplessness of her daughter's sudden illness both of which she is powerless to control or alter. If you want to read her thoughts to help you feel not alone in what you are experiencing; that what you're feeling and thinking is what a lot of other people feel and think at such times, then I think it would be a good read. Didion and her husband, John, were together for a lot of years, so much of her thoughts are in fact a kind of remarkable about the kind of marriage they shared and the kind of close family and friends they cultivated. She remarks on subjects she and her husband touched on such as 'living more' like seeing Paris again and perhaps more spontaneity in every day life. Although you don't actually see Joan doing it, her book aims to give you permission to surrender fully to the sadness that's loss and grief, I found that refreshing to hear in a culture who wants to put death and loss to the side and wants you to 'get over it' so you can get back to the job and the focus on pleasure and having fun.

If you're looking for joy and courage, I'd recommend Marcus Aurelius' Meditations and letters from Seneca. Both deal with most of the eventualities of the human condition. Also Hildegard de Bingen's writing's, songs, etc deal with illness and suffering and the overcoming of such.
Happy reading!(less)

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Kim
Oct 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: readers who don't give up
Recommended to Kim by: Maurice
You might think of me as a cynic.

If you’re being kind, that is. I’m the one that says ’Seriously?’ when being told of some tragic event--like someone would actually make up the horrific thing. I’m the one that views the whole process of death--the telling, the grieving, the service of any kind, the ’after’-- as playing out like I’m in a soap opera bubble. Which camera should I look into when I break down again? Strike one against me.

Strike Two: I've never been much of a fan of Joan Didion... I
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Books Ring Mah Bell
Nov 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Disclaimer: Being fresh into the grieving process myself, you may want to skip this review and head onto others. Undoubtedly I'll purge my grief in a review about a book on grief. You've been warned.

Right off the top I will say this for the book: raw, powerful, honest, amazing.
If you have any interest in the grief process, READ THIS BOOK.

The only criticism that I might have is that there's a lot of name dropping. Insert famous names and some fancy locations (Beverly Hills, Malibu), talk about u
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noisy penguin
May 21, 2007 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: no one should read this book.
I hated this book. It is the reason I instituted my "100 pages" policy (if it's not promising 100 pages in, I will no longer waste my time on it). So within the 100 pages I did read, all I got from Didion was that she and her husband used to live a fabulous life and they know a lot of famous people. She spoke of the '60s as a time when "everyone" was flying from LA to San Francisco for dinner. Um, no, actually, "everyone" wasn't doing that then and they're not doing it now. Instead of saying "ou ...more
Darwin8u
Jan 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014
“It occurs to me that we allow ourselves to imagine only such messages as we need to survive.”
― Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking

description

In four days it will be one year since my father-in-law died in an accidental shooting. He had recently turned 60 and recently celebrated his 40th wedding anniversary. In 18 days it will be four years since my older brother died suddenly in a Back Hawk crash in Germany. He was closing in on his 40th birthday. He was preparing to land.

I had two father-figures i
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Dawn
May 30, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No One
Hated it, hated it, hated it- but kept reading with the hope that all my pain and suffering would somehow be worth it in the end. It wasn't. The same self-pitying, whiney, depressing, self-important sentiments are basically repeated over and over again only with different words. Joan Didion can obviously write well, but she should have left this cathartic piece in her closet. And I'm not averse to reading novels that deal with grief. This one was just way too self-indulgent and redundant for me. ...more
Debbie "DJ"
Nov 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
This is a hard book for me to review, as I know my own personal experience will be foremost. A big thank you to a wonderful friend who sent this to me after the loss of my own partner three weeks ago. So yes, this book is about grief and loss. It is Didion's own personal journey after the loss of her husband. The first lines in her memoir begin...
"Life changes fast.
Life changes in an instant.
You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.
The question of self-pity."
Those words resonated with
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Michael Finocchiaro
I have only experienced the death of a few friends and my grandparents, so I cannot say that the grief that Joan Didion describes has ever been my own. However, her loss of her husband John from a sudden heart attack while simultaneously her daughter Quintana was fighting for her life talked to me very deeply. This is not a feel good, self-help book. It is a heartbreaking and yet cathartic reliving of her first year as a widow. I admit to wetting the pages with a few tears as I read the entire b ...more
Greg
Aug 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Like Johnny Rotten said during their last (in the universe where they never would re-form again in the mid-90's) show, "Do you ever feel like you've been cheated?"
I do Johnny, I do.
I feel cheated by this book. I bought it because it cost me a dollar. I wasn't interested in it that much. I finally picked it up to read because I wanted to write a review about how pathetic and whiny it was. I thought I'd say something about how now that baby-boomers are starting to kick the bucket they want a fuc
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Jason Koivu
Sep 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
To call Joan Didion cold or even heartless - true as it may be in the light of The Year of Magical Thinking, this monument to the analytical dissection of grief - is itself a cold and heartless condemnation. We all grieve in our own way. This is hers.

After losing numerous family members suddenly and too soon, Didion then lost her husband and daughter within the span of a year. This book is her cathartic contemplation of that loss.

Heartrending, yes occasionally. Heartwarming, no never. Didion's
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Orsodimondo
Jan 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: americana, memoir
ANCHE PIÙ CHE UN GIORNO DI PIÙ
Quando terminò la cerimonia ci recammo nella villetta di Pebble Beach. C’erano degli stuzzichini, dello champagne, una terrazza aperta sul Pacifico, una cosa molto semplice. Per la luna di miele passammo qualche notte in bungalow del ranch San Ysidro di Montecito e poi, annoiati, fuggimmo al Beverly Hills Hotel.

Ce la farà una persona che scrive queste cose, con questo tono, ce la farà a trasmettere il suo dolore, il senso della sua perdita, a risultare empatica…?

description
J
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Julie Ehlers
I’m finding it surprisingly difficult to write about this book. This is, without a doubt, the perfect book about having your husband die suddenly of a massive heart attack while your daughter is in the hospital in a coma, about to begin her own death-defying medical struggle (one she eventually loses, although that’s outside the scope of this particular book). I thought this memoir was so perfect that it’s hard for me to understand any of the criticisms of it. Are the critics saying there’s only ...more
Kate
Joan Didion's daughter Quintana fell gravely ill and was hospitalized with a serious infection. She was placed in a medical coma and put on life support. Only weeks later, Joan's husband, John Dunne, was speaking with her from their living room after visiting their daughter in the hospital, stopped mid-sentence and keeled over dead on the floor of a massive coronary. Four weeks later, Quintana pulled through and revived, but only two months after that, she collapsed from a massive brain hematoma ...more
Sara
Jul 20, 2007 rated it it was amazing
"you sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends. the question of self-pity."

i picked up this book and read it knowing nothing more than those two short lines. those two lines which become the refrain of the memoir.

i think i must have been drawn to it intuitively, i needed to read this book when i did. didion's memoir records her thoughts, feelings and actions during the year following her husband's death and her daughter's near-death hospitalizations (i learned later that after the book wa
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Lynne King
Feb 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Grief is different. Grief has no distance. Grief comes in waves, paroxysms, sudden apprehensions that weaken the knees and blind the eyes and obliterate the dailiness of life. Virtually everyone who has ever experienced grief mentions this phenomenon of “waves”.

I cannot remember when I was last so moved by a book. It covers a sad subject, that of death with the subsequent grief and mourning periods but it amazed me with its lucidity of a woman who wrote this book a year after her husband’s dea
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TK421
Jul 02, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays-auto-bio
I am not the type of person that cries at funerals. I find crying at a funeral as constructive as trying to stop a raging river with a few paper towels and a bag of sand, nothing is achieved. Find me not callous, for I am sensitive to the recently departed and their family. It's just that...I don't know...I know there is nothing that can be done to bring back that person. Rereading the above really makes me sound like an ass so let me try it another way: death is something we all have to accept; ...more
Helene Jeppesen
Sep 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
If I had to describe this book with one word, it would have to be 'impactful'. If you only read one book this year, read this book!
Michael
Apr 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
Ever incisive, as well as ever restrained, Didion examines with great care the events of her daily life during the year after her husband’s death. Out of a vast array of medical literature, both contemporary and traditional, she composes what amounts to be a straightforward but powerful argument: American society wrongly compels its members to gloss over the shock of a loved one’s death and deny or conceal the lingering pain of their loss. Didion’s polished prose and measured pacing at first gla ...more
da AL
Couldn't finish -- too sad. I know, I know, we all die. But this is where I could have used a lot more breast beating, more not so clinical stuff. This is a good argument for why fiction is essential, how it gives context & color...
Duane
"You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends". Didion uses this statement throughout the book, and this is a statement, or some varied version of it, that has touched or may touch many of us at some point in time. The thought of it; we suppress it, bury it just out of view of our consciousness, but we know it's there, that we may have to face it head on someday.

That's what Joan Didion does in this book when she is faced with her husbands sudden death. This is how she existed, how she wen
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Diane
Aug 15, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoirs, grief
There were many beautiful and moving passages in this book, but there are also some tedious aspects. I feel like a brute for criticizing what is essentially Didion's grief diary after her husband died, but some complaints have to be made. Didion gets too bogged down in the hours and days and minutiae of her husband's autopsy report. Also, parts felt like an academic paper because she kept quoting medical studies -- all part of the attempt to make sense of the autopsy.

Those kinds of details are
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Alex
Jan 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013
This is the second book my wife has recommended to me about people whose spouses die. If I'm found dead please deliver this review to the police.

There's a clinical feel about it. Not accidentally: Didion goes out of her way to cite research on the effects of grief. She analyzes it. You can feel her standing back from it, trying desperately to understand it. It doesn't engage in the despair of About Alice. This is how Didion, not our mushiest writer but one of our best, approaches the world: she
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Simeon Berry
I also thought this book was tremendously overrated. In the past, I loved Didion because she was a great stylist and a brilliant structuralist. The title essay of The White Album is probably the best-written essay of all time in my book, followed by F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Crack-up" and Charles Bowden's "Torch Song." She has the ability to analyze the personal politics of narrative, and to disclose just how weird and singular her brain is without even a trace of pity or sentimentality. The Wh ...more
Fabian
Apr 06, 2017 rated it liked it
Very interesting documents which heavily dotes upon pain, grief, death. Basically, megapersonal, deep, sad stuff revealed to us... for what purpose? To observe, I guess. Bear witness. Some grief SHOULD be shared... Because....? In order to...? Diminish it? I guess it is this: to ultimately give it meaning: to cash in, when the light of life has gone out.

Let a prose powerhouse not go gently into the night. Much must be said and articulated masterfully (entwining ever so gracefully the clinical wi
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Ammar
Dec 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book of nonfiction .. a sort of widow grief memoir.. written by a living legend who is a master narrative teller.

The losing of her husband the writer John Gregory Dunne over dinner, a heart attack.. one moment you are here and the next you are gone. The haze and confusion.. the ambulance and the paramedics... the hospital and morgue.

Then to make things worse.. her only daughter Quintana slipped into a septic shock.. after a bout of flu that turned into a double pneumonia. In this book Joan
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Charlie
Nov 19, 2009 rated it did not like it
'I hadn’t been able to think of food for days, so I had sent Higgins out for an hors d’oeuvres platter from Café Provencal. I was nibbling brie and beluga caviar on the deck, watching the sun set over the New York skyline and wondering how things could get any worse when Higgins brought me the phone. It was Gary.
My stomach lurched. Sequoia had collapsed at the bus terminal and been rushed to the emergency room, but there was no word as to what was wrong with her. I had to get to Los Angeles as q
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Tung
Jan 09, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: memoirs
A National Book Award-winner, this book is Didion’s personal memoir of the year following the death of her husband, writer John Dunne. Didion lays out her thought processes and emotions and struggle for normalcy after Dunne passes away suddenly one night at the dinner table from a heart problem. I didn’t find this book nearly as good as the hype would lead me to believe. The NY Times review called it an "indelible portrait of loss and grief." The NY Review of Books said "I can’t imagine dying w ...more
Audrey
Jun 24, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: People who have their shit together
I don't think it's Joan Didion's fault that my reaction to this book was to question and/or deride several facets of my life: should I be closer to my husband, like the author? Was I wasting time? Why didn't I keep a real journal? Why were the sporadic sentences in my sad attempt a journal so poorly written? Why don't I have a kitchen notebook to write down my meals like Joan Didion? Why did I just switch tense? Shouldn't I be keeping better notes on the goings-on of my life? In any event, this ...more
Samilja
Apr 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
This wasn't exactly what I expected. I knew from an interview with Didion on Fresh Air that the book was written in the year that followed the death of her husband - A year she spent mostly in hospitals at her adult daughter's bedside. The daughter, Quintana, suffered various illnesses and injuries that year, all of them serious & potentially fatal. The medical odyssey had begun just five days before her husband's sudden death from a heart attack. He died, in fact, in the couple's living roo ...more
Debra
Apr 13, 2014 rated it liked it
3 Stars. I heard a lot of hype about this book prior to reading it and by the reviews I see that People either really liked it or disliked. I think I am in the middle. I find it very hard to rate someone's grief and story of their year since the loss of a loved one (her husband). Joan Didion's memoir opens with her daughter being ill with pneumonia and being in the hospital. After deciding to eat at home, she begins to make dinner and realizes that her husband is not longer talking to her. After ...more
Dorothea
Apr 11, 2009 rated it did not like it
This is my first attempt to read anything written by Joan Didion. I picked up The Year of Magical thinking at a used book sale, after hearing her name thrown around in literary circles and not knowing anything about her. At this moment I'm only on page 76 and I don't know if I'll bother trying to make it to page 77 as the pretension is becoming unbearable.

The book is a series of essays she wrote after the death of her husband to whom she was married for 40 years. Little nuggets of Didion's poeti
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3,554 followers
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

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“A single person is missing for you, and the whole world is empty.” 1896 likes
“Life changes in the instant. The ordinary instant.” 1063 likes
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