Blue Nights, Joan Didion

“I know what the fear is.
The fear is not for what is lost.
What is lost is already in the wall.
What is lost is already behind the locked doors.
The fear is for what is still to be lost.”

Rating: ★★★★

Over Easter I had the pleasure of reading my first Joan Didion novel. Blue Nights was written as an ode to Didion’s daughter, Quintana. Not quite sure was I was expecting, I delved into a prose that seemed comforting and familiar; a lyrical, subtly poetic verse that transfers you directly into Didion’s world. Perhaps it was the easily readable text that enabled her words to imprint into my mind, loitering for days later, these sentences that appeared so relevant to me.

In Blue Nights, most notable is Didion’s stylistic methods which pose questions to the reader and create a tighter bond and deeper connection between the reader and writer. In some ways, the book seems too private for publishing. I felt invasive when reading about her daughter’s hospitalisation, and personal experiences dealing with age, sickness, and death. But ultimately, she talks about the truths that are rarely spoken about, which come about in an invasive manner. There is a fluidity from abstract and concrete; universal questions are put in the midst of everyday scenarios much like the thoughts come into our heads.

The flexibility of narrative, expanding from intellectual thought to internal processing of her struggles much reflects a train of thought, or our subconsciousness. The universality of the book, while Didion sometimes appears strangely disconnected to the prose, creates an elusive outlook into her life. Profound is the use of the colour blue, which has so many different meanings. Blue can be dark, it can be grieving, and death. It can have such bright qualities, with melancholic undertones.

I wasn’t quite sure what I would get out of this book. I did not realise how biographical it was, and often this is a style of writing that I am not fond of. Yet, I came away with this passion for Joan Didion. I felt as if I had seen into her life on a personal level, a feeling which is usually absent between the author themselves, and the reader. While realistically, I cannot relate to Didion’s lifestyle or circumstances put forward in this novel, I felt so deeply connected to her. There is definitely a self-medicating aspect to the prose as she overcomes death and loss, and the reader feels a sense of healing whilst reading it.

(I apologise for the hiatus. I’m currently in the middle of exam period, and should solely be focusing on them but I haven’t stopped thinking about this book since I’ve read it.)

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