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The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

  • Newsnight
  • 5 Sep 06, 05:28 PM

didioncover_logo2.jpgIconic US author and journalist Joan Didion's latest book, The Year of Magical Thinking, is a study of the grief she experienced following the death of her husband and illness and subsequent death of her daughter.

You can read an extract from the book here and leave your comments and reviews below.

You can also watch Steve Smith's interview with Joan Didion here

Comments  Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 09:57 PM on 05 Sep 2006,
  • Mills wrote:

Thanks for posting this, I really enjoyed the extract. Didion's prose is so precise it is amazing how she can be so exacting and scapel-sharp about something that must have been so confusing and incomprehensible.

Given we are often so divided - pretty often on this blog - we are reminded that loss like this provides a great equivalence.

One to add to my reading list. Thanks.

  • 2.
  • At 11:10 PM on 05 Sep 2006,
  • Nick Roscoe wrote:

If anyone saw this story and they can identify the piece of music at the begining - with the initial scenes of people walking the city streets - I would be very very grateful. Sorry if this seems to trivialise the story - not my intention at all.

Nick we will really easily be able to ID the music. Gimme a couple of days. I will talk to the producers (or some music nerd will ID it before then).
Paul Mason

  • 4.
  • At 11:34 PM on 05 Sep 2006,
  • Tess wrote:

My husband died of a sudden coronary in August 2003, he was just 34, we'd been married just 3 years and had a daughter who was 7 months old at the time. Joans description of shock was exactly how i felt. I can't wait to read this book. It's nice to find a book that i can relate too. However i found strength within my Daughter who is nearly 4 now, without her i would never have coped. I would like to find out how Joan found her strength.
Tess XX

  • 5.
  • At 11:38 PM on 05 Sep 2006,
  • barbara burman wrote:

Joan Didion's sensitivity was spell binding. I just had to read the extract. It was detailed to such a point that one felt you were really involved in the moments. Very powerful. A book to read.

I read this about a year ago, and it was shattering then. Re-reading some extracts now, and hearing Didion speak, it's clear it still is an extraordinary meditation on grief and loss.

  • 7.
  • At 12:58 AM on 06 Sep 2006,
  • Henry Pyne wrote:

Ten months ago when we had been married for 53 years and courted before that for several years, my wife was killed at my side in our car by a driver ignoring a red light. None of these years of experience in responsible positions with a trained logical mind prepared me for the real nature of grief. Only last evening for no particular reason I was inconsolable in one of these "waves" of which Joan Didion speaks. I too keep many of my wife's belongings knowing that I would have criticized this behaviour in others before. I cannot stress enough how perspicacious this brief extract has shown her to be. Purchase of the book is a must to help me with my grieving future.

  • 8.
  • At 01:18 AM on 06 Sep 2006,
  • Joe Page wrote:

I was very moved by the Joan Dideon piece. I am lucky not to have experienced anything like Joan but I know that we will all encounter the loss of a loved one at some point in our lives. This article reminded me that I am very lucky indeed. I am looking forward to reading the book.

  • 9.
  • At 10:27 AM on 06 Sep 2006,
  • Jennifer Watts wrote:

Hi Newsnight. Just to say how much I was touched by Dilion's book, she seemed to encapsulate, many of my own feelings in the death and illness of my family, only she is better than expressing the traumas that happened (to me)and to her, one after another. With congratulations to the way Kirsty's delicate approach to the story. A book I must read. Regards, Jenifer W.

  • 10.
  • At 01:01 PM on 06 Sep 2006,
  • Paul wrote:

Yep, very much enjoyed learning more about this author and her history.

Really great selection of music in the piece too. Possibly some Oscar peterson in there ? Nick, I too thought the track used at the beginning and end of the item was fantastic. Sounded to me like it came from a 70's movie sountrack. The original Thomas Crown Affair came to mind, but don't go rushing out to buy it. I'm probably way off. I'd also love to know about it's origins.


  • 11.
  • At 06:45 PM on 07 Sep 2006,
  • sheena ferguson wrote:

I read 'The Year of Magical Thinking' this summer in a small village in Ontario which had a wonderful library. Ive always been a fan of Joan Didion and was not even aware that John Gregory Dunne had died This made the book even more touching. She is an intelligent survivor and her eloquence is memorable.

  • 12.
  • At 11:55 AM on 10 Sep 2006,
  • nicki wrote:

I lost my daughter last year. I am still underwater, walking one foot in front of the other, on the sea bed. Just about. I was gripped by the interview with Joan, and can't wait to get my hands on the book. Grief is a life-altering landscape from which there is no return to our previous home.

  • 13.
  • At 09:55 AM on 11 Sep 2006,
  • sheila motani wrote:

I read this book in January and I believe that it has just been published in paperback. I have been a fan of didions work since I was a teenager and now I am in my late thirties. Having lost my parents and accepting that you have days where you feel numb with grief I can only thank her for providing a wonderful book which certainly is magical.

  • 14.
  • At 05:28 PM on 26 Sep 2006,
  • Nick Rosoe wrote:

I don't suppose you got a chance to trace the music with the producer did you Paul? (Mason) I'd still be very grateful!

  • 15.
  • At 08:21 PM on 16 Oct 2006,
  • Susan Thompson wrote:

I read a review of Joan's book about this time last year; my mother became ill around Christams and i knew that I needed to read something to help me through what was enevitable ...I knew I would be struggling in spite of the fact that my mother was 90 years old. Joan's book is not a exactly a self help book but her pure and exact writing relaying precisely what happened to her was incrediabally helpful to me. I have since lost my mother and have read the book 2 more times. I cherish my wonderful life with my husband and children much more becasue of the book. " Life changes in an instant.. " I needed Joan's book to remind me of this.

  • 16.
  • At 11:24 AM on 29 Oct 2006,
  • P>C> wrote:

Doesn't anyone proof read these extracts? When closing a quoted sub sentence the period falls after the closing quote.

mMh1Q7 A number of universities have awarded her honorary degrees, and she earned a prestigious job on the staff of Detroit congressman John Conyers. In 1988 Roxanne Brown noted: "Thirty-two years after she attracted international attention for sparking the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Mrs. Parks's ardent devotion to human rights still burns brightly, like a well-tended torch that ignites her spirit and calls her to service whenever she is needed."

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