Joan Didion's Blue Nights

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by dashcat, Jan 21, 2012.

  1. dashcat

    dashcat Member

    Has anyone read this?

    It's about Didion and John Gregory Dunne's daughter who passed away at the age of 39. Quintana is adopted and the book touches on many of the same abandonment issues some of our adopted difficult children have struggled with. She was also diagnosed with Borderline (BPD) and was a substance abuser.

    The book isn't uplifting. Don't read it if you are searching for comfort. It is, however, beautifully written and many of Didion's memories and observations are resonating with me. I'm about 1/2 through the book, and I'm going back to my couch to finish it. It's a short read.

    I was especially taken with her 20/20 highsight realizations of what she, at the time, believed to be Quintana's quirks...her signs of precociousness. In hindsight, she sees them quite differently. Most parents of difficult children, adopted or biological, have had such moments.

    I'd love to know what you think...
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2012
  2. Kathy813

    Kathy813 Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Dash, it sounds very interesting but I don't think I could read it. It would hit much too close to home.

  3. compassion

    compassion Member

    I have read exerpts in the NYT and a few other places. I like Joan Didion. Addiction is very real, very painful.
  4. Sounds worth looking into Dash!

    I'm currently working my way through Coming Home to Self, The Adopted Child Grows Up.

    I'd consider it a tough to read to move consecutively from cover-to-cover. I started out with that as my intention, but am enjoying picking it up and finding a section that interests me.

    The book's got lots of gems throughout seemingly every part I've read so far!

    As with any book there's always some stuff that is interesting to see author's experience and perspective, but I don't necessarily agree. I'd recommend it though for parents who have adopted kids, to read and discuss some of the topics with their adopted children who are approaching or have achieved adulthood.

    I'll add Blue Nights to my "to read" list.
  5. Steely

    Steely Active Member

    So this is a new book - in addition to The Year of Magical Thinking?
    I have heard that The Year of Magical Thinking is one of the best books to read if someone is grieving - it is on my bookshelf - yet I have not brought myself to read it.
    It is now on my desk, in my queue of books to read. :)
  6. dashcat

    dashcat Member

    It is new. Her daughter died either right before or right after Magical Thinking was finished. The Year of Magical Thinking is about her coping with her husband, John Gregory Dunne's, death and it does rerefence Qunintana's illness but the focus of the book is grieving the sudden loss of her husband. It is a stunning book...not sad in the way that you might think.

    I finished Blue Nights and have mixed feelings. In the beginning of the book, there are many references to her (Quintana's) issues with her adoption and they do touch on her diagnosis of Borderline (BPD) and a little on her substance abuse. I made my initial post about 1/2 into the book ..and I do think it's a good read in that it's amazing to read of trhe similarities in how a difficult child views such things as abandonment even when been raised in a world of resources that few of us can imagine. The child had a charmed life, yet she did not.

    The book ends up being less about Quintana's struggles and more about Didion's grief and her questions. Completely understandable and still very well written, but it's not a book to look to for comfort or answers. Still a good read, if you're aware of that fact.
  7. Lourdes

    Lourdes Guest

    I did read this book and thought it a book about aging, in addition to reflections on parenting and adoption. I liked it. I also read Year of Magical Thinking which is very very good, too. If you read Magical Thinking first and then Blue Nights second it is interesting to see how she has aged and her changing thought processes and how it simplifies. You can see it in her writing style. The 2nd book is even more choppy and repetitive - for me it illustrated how one starts thinking as they get old - and she is late 70s and looks even older.

    Blue Nights didn't help me understand her daughter any better, but it did help me understand Joan's view of her daughter and her seemingly "chance" way she was able to adopt her. So many What If's.
  8. Steely

    Steely Active Member

    Sounds good -- I have been highly recommended The Year of Magical Thinking because of the loss of my sister and dad -- but I had no idea it also dealt with her daughter and a mental illness, and that she also died. Wow. She has been through a lot.
  9. dashcat

    dashcat Member

    Magical thinking only deals peripherally with her daughter's illness. Mental Illness and substance abuse are not addressed until Blue Nights, and then only slightly.

    I agree with Lourdes that they should be read in that order and also with her observations about Didion's aging. Repetition has always been a hallmark of Didion's prose, but it is a bit over the top in Blue Nights...

    Magical Thinking is breathtaking in how it articulates the language of loss.