Didion mourns the loss of her daughter and offers an intellectual escape amid the pandemic.
Joan Didion’s novel, “Blue Lights,” comes from a Hollywood elite’s perspective — one that views the world from a high social status, displaying the complexity of mother-daughter relations and indicating a vulnerable and open approach to expressing the mourning process.
Joan Didion’s work has been on my radar since Netflix released a documentary about her in 2017, “The Center Will Not Hold.” The documentary, accompanied by a reference in the film “Stuck in Love” (2012), enticed me.
“Blue Lights” is a relatively quick biographical read. The audiobook clocks in at about four hours long, and the paperback and ebook are under 200 pages. As I read, I found that each page was chalked full of insightful perspectives and thought-provoking quotes. At times, the book might as well have been fiction because of how outlandish some of the experiences Didion depicts are.
She mentions her friendship with Natasha Richardson and Liam Neeson. Richardson is best known for starring as the mother, Elizabeth James, alongside Dennis Quaid and Lindsay Lohan in 1998’s “The Parent Trap.” Didion mentions how difficult it was on her when Richardson tragically and suddenly passed in 2009 from a ski lesson injury.
This leads to the novel’s primary focus: Didion’s ability to cope with death; she loses her husband, her adopted daughter and her friend. Although she repeatedly compares the feelings of loss to one another, the book focuses on her relationship and mourning process with her adopted daughter.
She explains that the relationship with her daughter was complicated. Her daughter, Quintana Roo, was adopted after Didion and her husband struggled to have children of their own.
As Didion reflects throughout the novel, she questions if she was a good mother or if she gave her child too much privilege because of the Hollywood scene.
“Memory fades, memory adjusts, memory conforms to what we think we remember,” says Didion in “Blue Lights.”
She ponders if she built up her daughter’s happiness in her head like a figment of her imagination, while in the meantime, her daughter was miserable. As Didioin puts it, “memory adjusts” when people reflect on their lives.
Being a first-time reader of Didion’s work, the rhythmic writing style enthralled me. She repeatedly articulates phrases to get her point across, and the moments in-between are filled with colorful language.
Didion is the product of high-class education, and sometimes it feels as though she writes alongside a thesaurus.The aspects of vulnerability Didion takes her reader through are also heart-wrenching and provocative.
Vanity Fair writer, Lili Anolik, penned the article, “How Joan Didion the Writer Became Joan Didion the Legend.”
Anolik writes, “Didion is not, let me repeat, not a holy figure, nor is she a maternal one. She’s cool-eyed and cold-blooded, and that coolness and coldness — chilling, of course, but also bracing — is the source of her fascination as much as her artistry is; the source of her glamour too, and her seductiveness, because she is seductive, deeply.”
This quote encompassed more than the “Blue Lights” book allows readers to see. After understanding the context of who Didion is through publications,one can claim Didion to be elegantly strong and glamorous to a fault.
If you seek an intriguing read outside of a textbook, and desire to know about Didion’s high-class life, “Blue Lights” is a must read.