Megan's Reviews > Blue Nights

Blue Nights by Joan Didion
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's review
Feb 21, 2012

it was amazing

I agree with everyone else about the weaknesses of this book: the selfishness, the wonder that Didion does not seem to recognize just what a terrible mother she was sometimes, and, as Caitlin Flanagan points out in her Atlantic review, the equal sorrow given to losing her red suede heels and her daughter. Gee, I wonder why poor Quintana feared abandonment when there's not one but two stories about her parents retuning home to discover that the 5 year old had made precocious and attention-seeking phone calls: was there no one babysitting this poor kindergartener?

But I still had to give this book five stars because I felt that it was less about her daughter (although that's what it is advertised as a book about) and more about getting old. And it was an amazing description of what it is like to get old. I am not old, but I could feel it, and recognize what she is talking about in older people who are close to me. The part where she was in the hospital, in the wrong wing because that was the only wing with a bed in it, and nobody believed her when she would try to explain that it was the wrong wing was heartbreaking. A similar thing happened to me last year: an overcrowded hospital, and my daughter was assigned an empty bed on a floor that she didn't belong on. All day, students and residents and nurses and doctors would come in, and be a little confused by her chart, and I would explain why we were there and what was really wrong with her. Everyone believed me. But I could imagine, reading Didion's description, feeling completely disenfranchised in the system for whatever reason (old, or poor, or uneducated, or not speaking English) and having these very same young doctors and nurses not believe me. But getting old is something that will happen to all of us, and even if we're Joan Freakin' Didion, we will get old and other people will look at us differently. And when other people look at us differently, how can that not have an effect on the way we see ourselves?

So, yes, it was a weak book as a book about her daughter. But it was still heartbreaking in a different way, and something I would recommend everyone read, if only to read an excellent description of what it is like to grow old.
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