The Year of Magical Feeling, Joan Didion

Imagine the situation: the sudden death of your spouse, while your daughter is in intensive care as a result of septic shock and pneumonia. Although she looks as if she is recovering, three months later she collapses from a massive hematoma. This is the real life drama that Joan Dideon faced and tackles in The Year of Magical Thinking.

Dideon puts herself under analysis to expose the workings of the bereaved mind: the irrational or “magical” thinking, characteristic of mourning. She finds herself compelled to constantly relive the event, trying to get the sequence right and ultimately rewrite the ending. This is the “magical thinking” of the title; the irrational conviction that her late-husband’s death can be undone. Didion gives away some of his clothes but cannot part with his shoes because he will need them when he comes back; she cannot read the obituaries because she feels she has somehow misled people into believing he is dead.

This story provides a thought-provoking analysis of bereavement. Maybe Dideon’s initial response to her situation should be taken as a warning – ‘Life changes fast. Life changes in an instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends’.

£12.99, Fourth Estate Ltd

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