The year of magical thinking

“Pain, when it comes, is not at all what we expect it to be.

Self-criticism: it may be that we did not understand the book, it may be that we were not able to immerse ourselves completely in the spirit that the writer wanted to convey to us, but we were disappointed by the text.

We decided to open this writing in this way out of respect for the story told and for the writer’s pain, in recognition of her long career. But let’s get back to this book.

Joan Didon, going to delve into her family mourning, with the loss of her lifelong partner, tries to give a sentimental and scientific reading to her pain. Going back and forth in the swing of memories until you feel like you want to get off as soon as possible. A stream of consciousness more useful to the author than to the reader, who has more to overcome the challenge to get to the end of the book.

A thread that folds in on itself, that you can walk along it dozens of times, believing you are going forward, only to find yourself at the starting point. And good intentions do not count, and the words used do not count, and the elaboration of a pain, however impossible it may be, does not count.

After the first few chapters, the reader is literally lost behind a game of opposing mirrors, endlessly, but without going anywhere.

Chosen from one of our various reading groups, the book led to important discussions. Whoever writes this review saw it as a wish but I can’t; I would like to talk about pain but I can’t; I would like to get out of this spiral of pain but I can’t. But let’s be clear, even within our reading group the non-positive opinions were the majority.

The only positive side, in our opinion, is the style of writing, which makes the reading flow in a pleasant way from a literary point of view, and this explains the gratitude towards the author we were talking about at the beginning.


Joan Didion, L’anno del pensiero magico, il Saggiatore, Milano, 2021

Original edition: The year of magical thinking, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2005

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