A Book of Common Prayer

A Book of Common Prayer

Book - 1995
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Writing with the telegraphic swiftness and microscopic sensitivity that have made her one of our most distinguished journalists, Joan Didion creates a shimmering novel of innocence and evil. A Book of Common Prayer is the story of two American women in the derelict Central American nation of Boca Grande. Grace Strasser-Mendana controls much of the country's wealth and knows virtually all of its secrets; Charlotte Douglas knows far too little. "Immaculate of history, innocent of politics," she has come to Boca Grande vaguely and vainly hoping to be reunited with her fugitive daughter. As imagined by Didion, her fate is at once utterly particular and fearfully emblematic of an age of conscienceless authority and unfathomable violence.
Publisher: New York : Vintage International, 1995.
ISBN: 9780679754862
Characteristics: 272 p. ;,21 cm.


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Feb 11, 2016

Didion is a superb writer, and the irony in this novel is what makes it so great. The family that Grace marries into is a hoot. They take themselves seriously, soooooo seriously; it's a comic satire on Banana Republics. And what's Grace doing in this family, anyway?! It's the last place she should be. Until we learn that she's a trained anthropologist and amateur chemist. So think of the novel as her trying to study this family (and Charlotte's . . . poor, sad, clueless Charlotte), and she actually gives us a "report" on the family (the novel itself). BUT, she wants clear and definite answers (hence she tries to become a scientist through biochem, searching for the kind of answers she wants), but there are no clear and definite answers to human behavior . . . and she doesn't find them (I add ironically). Which she basically admits at the end, but she's wrong about that in that she really does give us a study of the family (and I think of Charlotte, too). If one takes at face value the novel, and Grace, and Charlotte, what is so good about it will be missed. Taken literally, they're all a bunch of nuts. Grace is detached from everything--he has to be after all, she’s in the midst of constant revolution; Charlotte is repressed and clueless (a rich allegorical California mother???)--no wonder Marin (her daughter) runs off to something real (however illusory); and the Mendanas? They're just plain nuts!

Dec 26, 2015

At first, I was not drawn into the story but the writing was clean and simple yet had depth. Surprisingly, I developed a great deal of empathy for the key character, Charlotte, and stayed with her right until the end. A skillful author. I enjoyed this book very much and it stays with me.

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