Joan Didion’s Blue Nights is not as powerfully written, as clear and incisive as The Year of Magical Thinking. In many ways, it is a coda to Magical Thinking, and that book must be read in order to make sense of Blue Nights.
In Magical Thinking Didion writes about the death of her husband with almost an unbearable, repetitive honesty. No stone is left unturned, and the results can be excruciating yet brilliant reading.
Blue Nights is more muffled in its approach. While trying to get at the facts of her daughter’s death, Didion appears to be straining under misapprehensions. And this lack of focus, or more to the point, the delicate shying away from the difficult topic, leads to a narrative with less force and drive.