Sunday, November 11, 2012

Book Review: A Book of Common Prayer

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A Book of Common Prayer
Joan Didion
272 pages

This is another one of the books I read for class and absolutely loved.  It is the story of a shallow, ignorant American woman Charlotte who takes up residence in the Latin American country Boca Grande to escape troubles from home.  What's really interesting is that the novel is narrated by another American woman who married into the ruling family of Boca Grande, and it is as much about her as about her observations of Charlotte.

Didion's prose is simple, understated, and easy to read.  As such, it stands to reason that everything she includes has some meaning.  She does not waste words on extensive or flowery descriptions, and yet you'll be amazed by how much meaning is buried inside her almost minimalistic writing.

What I found interesting about this book is that it really ends up being a sort of critique of the American way of life.  Didion makes it very clear that the American view of the world is very insulated, self-centered, and generally ignorant.  And, when discussing the novel with friends or even just thinking about it on my own, I was extremely surprised to find that this is entirely true.  And yet the novel explores more than just this one subject, but also gender roles, stereotypes and inequalities, and the idea that we are so obsessed with the faults of others that we are blind to our own.

So if you like reading works that will make you actually think about your life and the way you perceive the world, I would highly suggest taking the time to read A Book of Common Prayer.



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