Saturday, 29 November 2014

The Year of Magical Thinking

I don't know what my thing is with books about grief lately, but here's another one! I saw this in a second-hand bookshop and was inspired to pick it up having seen it mentioned in several videos by Ashley at climbthestacks. Usually I'm not the type to go for sad or depressing books. But for some reason, when I spotted this on the shelf in that bookshop in Canterbury, I just couldn't let it be. And even after I bought it, I wanted to try and read one of the other books I'd bought as part of my Travel the World in Books challenge. But I just couldn't leave it! I wanted to pick it up immediately. And since I'm going to try and have a more immediate relationship with my books rather than just buying them and leaving them sitting on my shelf, I thought I might as well give in to the urge.

The Year of Magical Thinking


Joan Didion



One-sentence summary:

Joan Didion describes the year following her husband's sudden death and her daughter's hospitalisation.


I wasn't really sure what drew me to this book, and I didn't really know what to expect, but from the outset I found myself completely hooked. It's probably a bit strange to say that the author's struggles with loss and grief were gripping... But reading about such intense events and emotions and how she coped, and all written so beautifully, was so engaging. 

The way she described her thought processes following the death was really fascinating, especially her concentration on irrational things. She has researched her daughter's medical condition, as well as the symptoms or grief, all with the underlying idea that more knowledge equals more control. She recognises this to be untrue, and she sees the irrationality of these thoughts, but that recognition doesn't stop her from thinking them. Nor does it stop her keeping all her husband's shoes because he will need them when he comes back. 

One thing that this book highlights is the fragility of life and the suddenness and seeming randomness with which it can all change. Strangely, though this is seemingly an unsettling and depressing thought, I still found the book to be oddly hopeful. I think seeing the depths and extremes of human emotion is, in a lot of ways, more comforting (even if those experiences are extremely bad) than books which are completely devoid of emotion. Some books make me feel sort of hopeless, whereas this one was sad but in a sort of powerful and almost cathartic way... Maybe that's weird, I don't know!

Final thoughts:

I really loved The Year of Magical Thinking and found it completely fascinating, heartbreaking, beautiful and memorable. The writing style was so engaging and I zipped through the book in just over a day. Reading about an experience like this in such a detailed way really opened my eyes to another person's point of view, and the author's struggles and her honesty about her thought processes really touched me. I haven't experienced bereavement in the same way as the author, but I can imagine that if it does happen to me this book will be a great insight and source of identification, if not comfort.

Have you read The Year of Magical Thinking, and if so, what did you think? What are your thoughts on sad/depressing books? Let me know in the comments?

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