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Very focused on California itself - I have read about 7 of her books and must say this one has been the only one so far that I found difficult to read. Don’t get me wrong it’s Joan Didion and I love it and will read it until the end, it just to make you aware that is it extremely focused on California and politics of that time.
Dans un américain accessible pour qui a un niveau d'anglais moyen (moyen +), une découverte de la vraie Amérique, celle des gens ordinaires, qui révèle l'histoire de l'Amérique et l'héritage qu'en ont des gens ordinaires.
"Where I Was From" is a really well written, thoughtful work of Joan Didion. I need to begin by stating that Joan Didion is perhaps my favorite contemporary author. Therefore i have potential bias and I suspect that some readers will not find this work as completely enthralling as I do. If one has read Joan Didion's work in the past, I think one will find this to be a rather typical work of hers. It is extremely intelligent, erudite, and thought provoking. On the other hand the narrative moves slowly and I need to read it in segments as the work requires my full attention. Additionally, I purchased the accompanying audiobook, narrated by Gabrielle De Cuir. I felt she did a particularly excellent job reading the book, and thereby assisting me with my own "flawed inner narrator".
Speaking for myself, I generally read a section of this work, first thing in the morning, while I sip a cup of coffee, before anyone else is up, with no other distractions of any kind. It is precisely the way I read the work of my absolute favorite author, George Eliot. I also do parallel reading whenever Miss Didion discusses persons, subjects, or incidents with whom I am unfamiliar. In that context it takes me significantly more time to read a work such as this than its length would otherwise suggest.
As described above, Joan Didion mixes a history of her family and her own life, with a history of California. The other work of hers that this reminds me the most of is "Sloughing Towards Bethlehem". Also, within this work, she refers to another work of hers, which happens to be my favorite novel of hers, "Run, River". Again that is a slow moving, thoughtful work of fiction. Personally I am glad that I happened to read "Run, River" before I read this work. Another reader might wish to reverse that sequence.
In summary, I completely loved this work. I mostly do not travel in literary circles. However I have had some readers inform me that they only really enjoy lighter reading experiences, whether it be fiction or non fiction. I completely and truly respect that fact and am glad to know it. I prefer an eclectic mixture of books. I only mention this in case one enjoys strictly lighter reading, one might not be as enthralled with this work as I am. Thank You for taking the time to read this review.
If you are from California (born and raised -- even after WWII --if you read it, you will know what I mean, you will find truth in much of this book. If you are not a Californian by birth, or came in 70s or later -- it might not mean much.
This book felt to me like a very good tour of the state in its early days, mixed in with a good dollop of communal guilt over a Paradise lost and the persistent joy of a Paradise found. The history might not be as captivating as some other places in the country, but the toil and turmoil and the heart and soul is deep and real. Joan Didion reports what she knew and knows and allows you to come to your own conclusions, and that’s what I love about her. No story per say, but highly recommended if you want to get a feeling for what this state was and is all about.
This is a fascinating book. First, Joan is a great writer. I don't pretend to be able to relate to her as a person, but she's just a fabulous writer. Since reading "The Year of Magical Thinking" I've been trying to read everything she's written.
Loved reading about her family history and the history of other pioneers. Despite California's reputation as a state of free-thinkers and rugged individualists, it's actually a state based on land-grabbing, borrowed water, borrowed time and heavily subsidized industries.
(I realize the same could be said of many other places.)
I think most natives of California would appreciate this perspective, and those who aren't from the Golden State will also find something of interest because her descriptions of how places change over time are so poignant.