Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking

Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking


I am fascinated by portrayals of grief. Grief is such a complex experience and so different from one person to another. Of course, we all have plenty of experiences of grief, of losing people we love, but also grief over more abstract loses (lost opportunities, life changes we did not wish, ideas we have to let go).

A book I recently read, Journal d’Irlande by Benoîte Groult, was as much a celebration of vacations in Ireland as a reflection on the losses of old age. Benoite Groult had already discussed that in another book, but I was very much present in that Diary.

In The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion shares her process of grief of coming to terms with life on her own in the year where her daughter fell very ill and her husband died. The initial response is one of disbelief, “how could these things happen?”. And a kind of numbness. The year ends up being a roller coaster. Grief does not get lighter with time, but comes and goes in great waves. At times, she forgot her husband was gone… They had lived a life of intense closeness. Both were writers and both worked from home. Constant presence makes the depth of the void greater.

And the writing is beautiful. It is a book that delights and surprises… It is not a depressing book, in spite of its somber subject matter. It is a fascinating look into sensemaking.


Didion, Joan. The Year of Magical Thinking. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2005.

Other things: (with book excerpt)


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