Strange to say it (it contradicts acclaim), this is an anaesthetized work. Didion’s dreadful “magical” year included the loss of soul-mate husband (John Gregory Dunne) and the serious illness of her daughter, who died later. Names drip from meticulous prose. Emotion, packed and unpacked from medical cartons, is poked and probed like an unfamilar animal. Bluntness is its own wicked, and sometimes moving, reward.
But as fluent as the catharsis is, it finally lacks pulp and perspiration. Didion wants to name absence, circumscribe a void, analyze the vapors of grief, which is like pulling addition from subtraction: it works only conceptually.