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34 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Haunting Ending
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. As with all of Ms. Didion's books, I take my time with them, to truly cherish her writing style. I am a huge fan of her use of characterization, as well as her use of grammer. (Besides this book, I regularly recommend Play It As It Lays and Miami, two other great books by Ms. Didion.) Everytime I think of this book, I think of how...
Published on July 9, 2000 by Maslow

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not for the Common Reader
My first Joan Didion fiction. The story is told by a friend of Charlotte. Charlotte's daughter is missing having joined revolutionary forces in a fictional Caribbean country. Charlotte seems to be in stupor while searching for her daughter. Charlotte is harassed by her ex-husband. Didion's writing doesn't follow a chronological frame. As a result, I felt as lost as...
Published on July 3, 2009 by lmj


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34 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Haunting Ending, July 9, 2000
By 
Maslow (New York, NY) - See all my reviews
This review is from: A Book of Common Prayer (Paperback)
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. As with all of Ms. Didion's books, I take my time with them, to truly cherish her writing style. I am a huge fan of her use of characterization, as well as her use of grammer. (Besides this book, I regularly recommend Play It As It Lays and Miami, two other great books by Ms. Didion.) Everytime I think of this book, I think of how the brave narrator, in the course of the developments of the novel, regrets, with the last line in the book, the opening statement she made in the book's lead. One of the all-time best books I've ever read, you have got to give this book a read, too.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended for its sparce style., June 15, 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: A Book of Common Prayer (Paperback)
Didion's liturgical language is absolutely captivating. I read this book in one day and have re-read it at least five times. Her female characters, called shallow by some critics, are extremely interesting and what is left unsaid is what the novel is about. Didon isn't an easy read, but her images stay with you, puzzle you and haunt you
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27 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Revolution, January 7, 2006
By 
Jon Linden (Warren, N.J. United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
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This review is from: A Book of Common Prayer (Paperback)
In this uncommonly excellent prose, Ms. Didion describes an incredible scenario of a revolution in a Caribbean country. The country is dirt poor. There is no good water, there are no proper sewers and there are few good roads, except the one highway that leads to the house of El Presidente.

The people live in squalor and there are only a few people in this island of the damned who are in fact solvent. The story tells of the tale of an American lady, norteamericana, who comes to the island, for reasons even she herself does not know. Her life has been tragic and strange. Her child becomes an American revolutionary and is involved in the hijacking of a plan from California to Utah. She lives an underground life and has no connection to her parents, whom she rejects socially and economically.

Didion's reporting style writing is almost a perfect match for telling the story of this obscure countries political corruption and the insurgency that exists within. She uses her incredible ability to turn a phrase and then to use it multiple times for an emphasis that is extraordinary in painting the picture of the world about her. Charlotte Douglas has come here to figure out something, but what it is hard to tell. She seems to be adrift in the impoverished lands of Boca Grande which translates to "Big Bay" or also as Didion points out to "Big Mouth."

Those in charge do have big mouths and talk out of both sides of it. There is constantly a strange dance performed by the few landowning ruling class that is constantly trying to shift the balance of power on the island to accommodate their own personal purposes. In the ensuing revolutionary action, Charlotte is actually killed. She could have easily avoided this fate by leaving the country, but instead, she insists on staying and ends up shot and left for dead on the lawn of the abandoned American Embassy.

The beauty of the story is in the writing more than the events. With pure journalist style mixed with incredible fictional reality, Didion creates what could be typical of the Central American/Caribbean countries and their constant revolutions. Many get caught up in them and never emerge. Charlotte is one who does not emerge.

As modern fiction, the book has a style that is unique to Didion. The smoothness of the writing and the deadpan descriptiveness is purely hers. It is the one book that she has written that is truly appropriate for all Americans to read. The book is highly recommended for those looking to see great fiction encompass the horror of revolution.
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24 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Didion's masterpiece, March 15, 2003
By 
Richard J. Welch (Marblehead, MA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: A Book of Common Prayer (Paperback)
Arguably, this is one of a handful of great modern american novels from the last quarter of the 20th century. from its remarkable opening chapter, it weaves a hypnotic spell, with didion's characteristic romanticizing of despair and existential angst. this is a novel of sentences. sentences to be savored, and read aloud. sentences without one extraneous word; as balanced as poetry, and utterly perfect from the first syllable to the last. didion remains one of the few writers who can comment on a scene by way of description. the details she focusses upon serve to illustrate her vision in a manner only a small handful of authors can manage. it is the mark of a master, and this is, without question, her masterpiece. it is didion's reportage and essays that have made her reputation, but this very challenging and utterly flawless novel is the equal to her non fiction prose. it is not a novel for the casual reader. however, for any student of delusion, and any admirer of serious literature of the highest order, a book of common prayer is an essential text.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Embrace the ambiguity!, September 1, 2007
By 
Book Lover (San Diego, CA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: A Book of Common Prayer (Paperback)
This is a book that is hard to wrap your mind around. Didion does not tell you a clear story with well-defined characters and a plot-without-holes. Instead, the reader must do a little work here. It is what is not told in the story that is so fascinating. Didion appears to be making a comment on the impossibility of truly knowing other people's motivations, inner thoughts, and who they are at the core. All we can do as humans, and therefore in a sense informal anthropologists, is make assumptions from what we see, hear, and perceive. Sometimes we are correct; sometimes we are very wrong. But, that's okay. If you are the type of person who likes things neat and tidy, you will probably be disappointed. If you like books that make you draw your own conclusions, and perhaps feel ambivalent about most of the characters even to the end, then you will like this one. I tend to be the latter, so I did enjoy it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars exhilaratingly depressing..., September 3, 2012
By 
meeah (somewhere between my ears (i presume)) - See all my reviews
This review is from: A Book of Common Prayer (Paperback)
Joan Didion uses a distinctively flat, affectless style and an unreliable narrator in "A Book of Common Prayer." She utilizes both to great effect to recount the mystery of Charlotte Douglas, an American expatriate in Boca Grande, the capital of a Central American country whose government is overthrown almost as regularly as clockwork.

Grace Tabor, the aforementioned unreliable narrator, is an anthropologist dying of pancreatic cancer. She is also married into the dysfunctional family dictatorship that runs the country. She has set herself the project of constructing a sort of anthropological case study of Charlotte Douglas. But Charlotte is a woman who seems to exist largely in a world of her own. She defies classification within the parameters of what is normal human behavior.

Charlotte has come to Boca Grande for reasons that she hardly seems to understand herself. Her daughter, Marin, is wanted by the FBI in a plane hijacking. She is currently married to a lawyer who represents political radicals. She has an ex-husband who is a) brilliant b) crazy c)Marin's father d) dying e) abusive f) sexually, psychologically, sadistically obsessed with Charlotte.

Tabor's attempt to tell Charlotte's "story" is full of ellipses, lacunas, and empirical facts of dubious provenance. Her own life is similarly full of holes and blind spots. As Tabor says, "I have not been the witness I wanted to be." Though it isn't for lack of trying.

As Boca Grande slouches towards its scheduled revolution, there are signs that forces darker and more ominous than the usual are at work behind the scenes.
Charlotte seems not just willing to die for no particular reason, but to be inviting the catastrophe.

Why?

Didion purposely leaves enough pieces out of the jigsaw puzzle to force the reader to speculate on the final picture. In "A Book of Common Prayer" people and nations have lost their moral compass; they drift more or less without direction inexorably towards the vortex of a whirlpool of violence and tragedy. The result is a disturbing, haunting novel that doesn't seek to solve a mystery but to present human nature itself as the ultimate mystery. A mystery that is, in the end, utterly unsolvable.

A finely wrought piece of fiction whose laconic, iconic, zombie-style has been much-imitated, "A Book of Common Prayer" is a good snapshot of our times. After I turned the final page, it left me so depressed I had to head for the fridge and the peanut butter ice cream. Sure signs of a good novel, indeed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Out of the ordinary for Joan Didion, April 19, 2013
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This review is from: A Book of Common Prayer (Paperback)
I bought this book because my University was reading it in their book club. I enjoyed it, but it was not what I was expecting. I'm glad that I read it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully sparse prose, August 3, 2014
This review is from: A Book of Common Prayer (Paperback)
I first heard of this when I read [book:The End of Your Life Book Club|13414676] . The author's mother loved this book, and I couldn't put that out of my mind. So, when I walked into my local library a few weeks ago, and saw it sitting on a shelf as I walked in the door, it was almost as if there were a golden shaft of light shining down on it. I picked it up this morning and thought it might be a quick read. I was right.

The book is narrated by Grace, an American woman living in the fictional country of Boca Grande, which is constantly torn apart by revolutions - one occurs so frequently, they have a countdown for it, when it begins. Grace is focused mostly on Charlotte, another American woman who shows up in Boca Grande one day, for no real reason and without knowing anyone. Charlotte has woven a fiction for herself, and she often seems to forget what really happened in her life prior to arriving in Boca Grande. Grace and Charlotte become something resembling friends, but Charlotte's behavior is so odd, that no one can truly get close to her.

The book is written beautifully and in a spare prose that wastes no time letting you know all is not as it seems with this beautiful American lady. I really liked this book, not necessarily loved it, but it was definitely a good book. It seems everything is connected in life, and this book exemplifies that beautifully.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not for the Common Reader, July 3, 2009
This review is from: A Book of Common Prayer (Paperback)
My first Joan Didion fiction. The story is told by a friend of Charlotte. Charlotte's daughter is missing having joined revolutionary forces in a fictional Caribbean country. Charlotte seems to be in stupor while searching for her daughter. Charlotte is harassed by her ex-husband. Didion's writing doesn't follow a chronological frame. As a result, I felt as lost as Charlotte in a foreign country. Her writing style took an adjustment on my part, but I look forward to re-reading this work or reading other novels by Ms. Didion.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Book of Common Prayer, May 4, 2014
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A dear friend loaned this book to me in paperback version and I loved it so much that I ordered it for my new Kindle Fire. Excellent Book!
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A Book of Common Prayer
A Book of Common Prayer by Didion (Paperback - April 11, 1995)
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