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3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (8,564 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Joan Didion Narrator: Kimberly Farr Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: November 2011 ISBN: 9780307940872
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From one of our most powerful writers, a work of stunning frankness about losing a daughter. Richly textured with bits of her own childhood and married life with her husband, John Gregory Dunne, and daughter, Quintana Roo, this new book by Joan Didion examines her thoughts, fears, and doubts regarding having children, illness, and growing old.
 
Blue Nights opens on July 26, 2010, as Didion thinks back to Quintana’s wedding in New York seven years before. Today would be her wedding anniversary. This fact triggers vivid snapshots of Quintana’s childhood—in Malibu, in Brentwood, at school in Holmby Hills. Reflecting on her daughter but also on her role as a parent, Didion asks the candid questions any parent might about how she feels she failed either because cues were not taken or perhaps displaced. “How could I have missed what was clearly there to be seen?” Finally, perhaps we all remain unknown to each other. Seamlessly woven in are incidents Didion sees as underscoring her own age, something she finds hard to acknowledge, much less accept.
 
Blue Nights—the long, light evening hours that signal the summer solstice, “the opposite of the dying of the brightness, but also its warning”—like The Year of Magical Thinking before it, is an iconic book of incisive and electric honesty, haunting and profoundly moving. Download and start listening now!

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Quotes & Awards

  • “For the great many of us who cherish Joan Didion, who can never get enough of her voice and her brilliant, fragile, endearing, pitiless persona, [Blue Nights] is a gift.”

    Newsday

  • “Didion has translated the sad hum of her thoughts into a profound meditation on mortality. The result aches with a wisdom that feels dreadfully earned.”

    Economist

  • “Profoundly moving…This is first and last a meditation on mortality.”

    San Francisco Chronicle

  • “Joan Didion is a brilliant observer, a powerful thinker, a writer whose work has been central to the times in which she has lived. Blue Nights continues her legacy.”

    Boston Globe

  • “Incantatory…A beautiful condolence note to humanity about some of the painful realities of the human condition.”

    Washington Post

  • Darkly riveting . . . The cumulative effect of watching her finger her recollections like beads on a rosary is unexpectedly instructive. None of us can escape death, but Blue Nights shows how Didion has, with the devastating force of her penetrating mind, learned to simply abide. Louisa Kamps, Elle
  • A scalpel-sharp memoir of motherhood and loss . . . Now coping with not only grief and regret but also illness and age, Didion is courageous in both her candor and artistry, ensuring that this infinitely sad yet beguiling book of distilled reflections and remembrance is graceful and illuminating in its blue musings. Donna Seaman, Booklist
  • Brilliant...Nothing Didion has written since Play It As It Lays seems to me as right and true as Blue Nights. Nothing she has written seems as purposeful and urgent to be told. Joe Woodward, Huffington Post
  • “[Didion] often finds captivating, unparalleled grooves. Her expansive thinking…is particularly striking. The A. V. Club
  • The reader only senses how intimately she understands her instrument. Her sentences are unquestionably taut, rhythmic and precise. Time Out NY
  • A searing, incisive look at grief and loss by one of the most celebrated memoirists of our time. Relevant Magazine
  • "Both Fascinating and heartbreaking. Marie Claire
  • “Honest, unflinching, necessarily solipsistic, and, in the way of these things, self-lacerating…Certainly as a testament of suffering nobly borne, which is what it will be generally taken for, it is exemplary. However, [Blue Nights] is most profound, and most provocative, at another level, the level at which the author comes fully to realize, and to face squarely, the dismaying fact that against life’s worst onslaughts nothing avails, not even art; especially not art.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • A haunting memoir . . . Didion is, to my mind, the best living essayist in America . . . What appears on the surface to be an elegantly, intelligently, deeply felt, precisely written story of the loss of a beloved child is actually an elegantly, intelligently, deeply felt, precisely written glimpse into the abyss, a book that forces us to understand, to admit, that there can be no preparation for tragedy, no protection from it, and so, finally, no consolation . . . The book has . . . an incantatory quality: it is a beautiful, soaring, polyphonic eulogy, a beseeching prayer the is sung even as one knows the answer to one’s plea, and that answer is: No. Cathleen Schine, The New York Review of Books
  • Blue Nights, though as elegantly written as one would expect, is rawer than its predecessor, the ‘impenetrable polish’ of former, better days now chipped and scratched. The author as she presents herself here, aging and baffled, is defenseless against the pain of loss, not only the loss of loved ones but the loss that is yet to come: the loss, that is, of selfhood. The book will be another huge success . . . Certainly as a testament of suffering nobly borne, which is what it will be generally taken for, it is exemplary. However, it is most profound, and most provocative, at another level, the level at which the author comes fully to realize, and to face squarely, the dismaying fact that against life’s worst onslaughts nothing avails, not even art; especially not art. John Banville, The New York Times Book Review
  • The marvel of Blue Nights is that its 76-year-old, matchstick-frail author has found the strength to articulate her deepest fears—which are fears we can all relate to. Heller McAlpin, The Wasthington Post
  • The Week magazine's 5 Best Non-Fiction Books of 2011
  • The master of American prose turns her sharp eye on her own family once again in this breathtaking follow-up to The Year of Magical Thinking. With harrowing honesty and mesmerizing style, Didion chronicles the tragic death of her daughter, Quintana, interwoven with memories of their happier days together and Didion’s own meditations on aging. Malcolm Jones and Lucas Wittmann, Newsweek
  • A searing memoir People
  • “In this supremely tender work of memory, Didion is paradoxically insistent that as long as one person is condemned to remember, there can still be pain and loss and anguish.”

    Vanity Fair

  • “Darkly riveting…The cumulative effect of watching her finger her recollections like beads on a rosary is unexpectedly instructive. None of us can escape death, but Blue Nights shows how Didion has, with the devastating force of her penetrating mind, learned to simply abide.”

    Elle

  • “Breathtaking…With harrowing honesty and mesmerizing style, Didion chronicles the tragic death of her daughter, Quintana, interwoven with memories of their happier days together and Didion’s own meditations on aging.”

    Newsweek

  • “Haunting.”

    Entertainment Weekly

  • “Yes, this is a book about aging and about loss. Mostly, though, it is about what one parent and child shared—and what all parents and children share, the intimacy of what bring you closer and what splits you apart.”

    O, The Oprah Magazine

  • “Didion’s bravest work. It is a bittersweet look back at what she’s lost, and an unflinching assessment of what she has left.”

    BookPage

  • “Didion has created something luminous amid her self-recrimination and sorrow. It’s her final gift to her daughter—one that only she could give.”

    Wall Street Journal

  • “Exquisite…She applies the same rigorous standards of research and meticulous observation to her own life that she expects from herself in journalism. And to get down to the art of what she does, her sense of form is as sharp as a glass-cutter’s, and her sentences fold back on themselves and come out singing in a way that other writers can only wonder at and envy.”

    Washington Independent Review of Books

  • Selected for the December 2011 Indie Next List
  • A New York Times Bestseller
  • A 2011 Barnes & Noble Best Book for Nonfiction
  • A 2011 Publishers Weekly Best Book for Nonfiction
  • A 2011 Time Magazine Top 10 Book for Nonfiction
  • One of the 2011 New York Times Book Review 100 Notable Books for Nonfiction

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Patricia Geller | 2/19/2014

    " This book made me feel more for my parents. I couldn't go near the death of a child. Joan Didion is so in her head, so though the book recounts her pain, it is a leap to feel it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Fay | 2/4/2014

    " Beautiful, but so so sad.....and difficult. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Andrea | 1/29/2014

    " "When we lose that sense of the possible we lose it fast." "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Kara | 1/23/2014

    " Depressing at best. Completely scattered "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Doneen | 1/20/2014

    " This book lost much of its power, in my opinion, because of the author feeling she had to repeat so many things over and over to make her point. The personal story itself is very moving, but the author diluted the emotional issues as far as I was concerned with all the endless repetition. I also was very upset by the author's very unrealistic approach to the adoption of her daughter. She seemed to have very little concern for what that meant for her daughter and the lasting effects that has on an adoptee. She seemed totally caught up in the fairy-tale idea with little understanding of the consequences for anyone else but herself. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Julie Leung | 1/10/2014

    " This book is like a strong, smoky bourbon to be savored slowly, somberly and with much introspection. A moving, esoteric confessional of a complicated mother-daughter relationship and a brave, unflinching account of facing mortality. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jeannine | 12/29/2013

    " Could use a little more "Magical Thinking." Didion still puts me at awe with the precise details of her memories and recall. But, I feel that she was a bit to repetitive, and avoided some of the deep feelings that made her last book so moving. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Beverly | 12/2/2013

    " Didion's voice is gut wrenching as she examines her grief over the loss of her daughter. Her writing is raw, powerful, honest, authentic...devastating in its effort to understand. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jody | 12/2/2013

    " Once again Joan writes with grace and shares the very personal experience of the death of her child right after the death of her husband. She espouses strength to all who feel you can't go on... "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Martha | 8/2/2013

    " this was a great contemplation of loss and aging.... "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Maia | 7/25/2013

    " I thought I would like it as well as Year of Magical thinking, but I did not finish it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Deborah | 4/16/2013

    " I don't think I've read enough Joan Didion to fully appreciate this. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Carleen | 3/28/2013

    " a little blue . . . :[ "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Men D. | 1/13/2013

    " Decent, but I liked this book better the first time I read it, when it was called "The Year of Magical Thinking." "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 A | 12/7/2012

    " A sequel to A Year of Magical Thinking, I love Joan Didion and this book; however, if you are looking for something upbeat, this is not it. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Lindsey | 12/5/2012

    " I usually love Joan Didion, but this was far too stream of consciousness for my liking. She repeats various sentence fragments for what I can only suppose is intended to be cumulative emotional effect, but I mostly found it irritating. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 suzy | 10/2/2012

    " give this woman a break, already. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Liz Gray | 8/2/2012

    " This meditation on love, loss and mortality is beautifully written . A quick read but one that leaves a mark on your heart. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Dari | 7/2/2012

    " Interesting story. I find Joan Didion's works a bit dry and slow moving. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Monte Peters | 4/17/2012

    " With her succinct prose and, in this particular volume, her unflinching examination of her relationships, Didion maintains her relevance and ability to examine painful memories in a celebrity/reality enamored culture. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Andrea Lakly | 4/9/2012

    " "The Year of Magical Thinking" is one of my top ten best books, but this book doesn't have the same piercing clarity. Still, it reveals our vanities, our frailties, our desperate attempts to control by judging and understanding. It has moments of wonderful beauty. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Julene | 3/31/2012

    " Picking up a book based on the quotes I saw on Tumblr: never again. How many rhetorical questions can one page have? A lot, if you're Joan Didion. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Mitch Lillie | 3/23/2012

    " Hm, I'll give it to her: it was honest. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Tobias | 3/18/2012

    " Verlust ist die schmerzlichste Erfahrung des Lebens. Aus Joan Didions Feder klingt das nicht mehr wie eine Binsenweisheit. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Inese | 2/5/2012

    " Moving meditation on losing a beloved child (young adult), parenting, and aging. Perhaps this would not resonate so much with the young as it did with me. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Laura | 11/18/2011

    " Very bizarre - not at all like "A Year of Magical Thinking." Don't waste your time or money. "

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About the Author
Author Joan DidionJoan Didion was born in Sacramento, California, and now lives in New York City. She is the author of five novels and eight previous books of nonfiction. Her collected nonfiction, We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live, was published by Everyman's Library in 2006.
About the Narrator

Kimberly Farr is an actress and eight-time winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award for narration. She has appeared on Broadway and at the New York Shakespeare Festival, the Roundabout Theatre, Playwright’s Horizons, and the American Place. She created the role of “Eve” in Arthur Miller’s first and only musical, Up from Paradise, which was directed by the author. She appeared with Vanessa Redgrave in the Broadway production of The Lady from the Sea and has acted in regional theaters across the country, including a performance in the original production of The 1940’s Radio Hour at Washington, DC’s Arena Stage.