Quand on n’a rien perdu – The Year of Magical Thinking Goodread’s review

The Year of Magical ThinkingThe Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Maybe 3.5. It’s Goodreads fault… 🙂

Okay, I might sound ungrateful, shallow, a brat, insert english words my francophone self would not think of…. but I can’t say I fell in love with this book, as I expected. I expected to be deeply moved, and I was, but also kept a proper emotional distance with Didion’s emotional journey captured in The Year of Magical Thinking.

Just like the small number of deaths I have witnessed in my life, the end of this book was painful, redundant, never ending, but obviously she didn’t write this essay on grief to please me, or readers in general. I have never actually grieved, and in this instance I am very fortunate. People around me who have passed away never had this quality of pillars in my life, people without whom I couldn’t see myself. My reaction to this book is exactly the one from someone who has never gone through this and pushes people to overcome it, and as she points out at the beginning of chapter 17 (quote below), someone who will never know what to expect, as everyone else, never quite prepared.

I can understand I’m just not ready for this book. She writes beautifully. Even though she talks about death, religion, afterlife and all that, do not appear as main characters of this essay, which I appreciated. I could, eventually, connect with her, on an emotional level. For now, this collection of bite-size life stories, philosophical reflection and recollections of daily, on-going routines felt very disconnected, and therefore I disconnected for the last 50 pages.

I will open a little drawer in my mind and insert this essay for future reference, for a time when I will call myself fortunate anymore. It is a dreadful thought, but it will surely happen.

“Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it. We anticipate (we know) that someone close to us could die, but we do not look beyond the few days or weeks that immediately follow such an imagined death. We misconstrue the nature of even those few days or weeks. We might expect if the death is sudden to feel shock. We do not expect this shock to be obliterative, dislocating to both body and mind. We might expect that we will be prostrate, inconsolable, crazy with loss. We do not expect to be literally crazy, cool customers who believe their husband is about to return and need his shoes.”
― Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking

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Je suis féministe!

We Should All Be FeministsWe Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Okay, I gave it 4 stars because I agree with the statement and I think I should encourage the dissemination of this message. Nevertheless, it is a very simple essay and its purpose is mostly to remind us that the goal is not yet reached, and that nations and populations are not at the same level of equity either. It doesn’t bring anything new to the table (hence the non-5 star), it doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its value (hence the 4 star).

She talks from an African point of view: when I worked in Africa, I would often be ignored by our local partners who would address my male colleagues freely, even though I was technically in charge of the project and said colleagues. I sometimes had to remind them of who I was, dismissing all the local savoir-ĂŞtre. I sat in the front in cars. I would address people as equal. I would laugh. It didn’t always go well. It gave me perspective, on what the real fight was when it comes to feminism: it’s a fight for equal opportunities for all, not a way to justify my own discomfort with authority and control. If a man wants to pay my dinner, why not accept? I would accept it from a friend. But when people say that it is normal that some elderly woman’s daughter is taking care of her and not her son, because, you know, woman are more caring, that I don’t accept.

Adichie also brings up the question of heels, and makeup and girliness, issues that are still confusing to me. I think it is difficult to say that we were makeup and heels «for us» and not to adhere to a social norm for women. I would feel weird if my boyfriend started wearing makeup and heels on a day to day basis, and not as a one-time costume thing for Halloween. I admit it. I don’t think I’m alone. We still view these things as very female and so I wonder if continuing to embrace that, as women, even though we say that it is for us, breaks or strenghthens the stereotype.

If you think everthing I say is bullcaca, let me know. I believe discussion is the only way we can better ourselves.

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