Blue Nights – Joan Didion (2011)


As Joan Didion is one of my favourite authors, I have made it a goal to read every thing she has ever written. Blue Nights is ostensibly a memoir of her grief at losing her only child, Quintana Roo Dunne, so soon after losing her beloved husband and partner, John Gregory Dunne. Blue Nights diverges from this expectation as rather more of a lament for motherhood. It is clear that Didion misses her beloved daughter, her golden child, named after a point on a map. Titled after L’heure Bleue or the gloaming, a particular point in the evening of summer when the sky is darkly, vividly blue. It doesn’t last long, and often goes completely unnoticed. This is how Didion seems to view the time of childhood, the time when she was actively a mother to a child that she saw as the best of personhood in every way. Quintana was bold, where Didion demures, Quintana was loud and brash and prone to hard drinking and drugs, as Hollywood children tend to be. Blue Nights traces Didion’s remembrances of her daughter in a non-linear, often metaphorical way. Criss-crossing their lives, expanding on stories touched on and published in Quintana’s youth, now examining the pain or hurt that her parents may have unknowingly or rather unthinkingly exposed her to. This is a book that all mothers could relate to. The thought that we never know if we did a good job until it is too late. Until they have grown and gone. And gone. Didion’s fierce love for her daughter and her despair at losing her are so abundantly clear. There is a Dream like quality to the narrative, weaving stories and thoughts and notes, through her memories. 188 pages. 

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