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Run River Paperback – April 26, 1994


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1 edition (April 26, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679752501
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679752509
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #355,776 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"There hasn't been another American writer of Joan Didion's quality since Nathanael West.... [She has] a vision as bleak and precise as Eliot's." —John Leonard, The New York Times"A slant of vision that is arresting and unique . . . Didion might be an observer from another planet—one so edgy and alert that she ends up knowing more about our own world than we know ourselves." —Anne Tyler, New Republic"A beautifully told first novel . . . written in prose both witty and imaginative." —The Times Literary Supplement (London)

From the Inside Flap

Joan Didion's electrifying first novel begins with a murder on the bank of the Sacramento River--a murder that is at once an act of vengeance and a blind attempt to shore up a disintegrating marriage. Out of that act, Didion constructs a tragic and beautifully nuanced work of fiction.

More About the Author

Joan Didion was born in California and lives in New York City. She is the author of five novels and seven previous books of nonfiction. Joan Didion's Where I Was From, Political Fictions, The Last Thing He Wanted, After Henry, Miami, Democracy, Salvador, A Book of Common Prayer, and Run River are available in Vintage paperback.

Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 16, 1999
Format: Paperback
...but Run River is her finest novel. "Democracy" is excellent, but it is more a tour de force than a novel. Didion was only in her twenties when she wrote Run River, and it is a winner--stylish but never mannered (something you can't say about her subsequent novels), subdued, witty, assured, and filled with Valley (as in the Sacramento Valley) characters with whom Didion was rather obsessively in love. It is a pity that she seems more interested these days in writing about Washington insiders for N.Y.C./L.A. insiders. Everett McClellan, my favorite character in the book, would not have been able to sustain an interest in such figures as Henry Hyde and Kenneth Starr. That Didion can--even if only for the purpose of eviscerating them--is an indication of how far she has strayed from her literary roots. Ah, but what roots they were. Run River is an extraordinary achievement.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 21, 2000
Format: Paperback
This novel is early Didion, wonderfully lyrical and dark, passionate without sentimentality, and beyond conclusions. It is homage to James Jones, to William Faulkner, perhaps a little to John Steinbeck, but mostly to a California now almost vanished. That California is mostly the settlers' California, but it is also a California felt and known aboriginally. She writes, as always, poignantly about things dying away: but the heirs live on and the Californian sun and hills, rivers and floods, carry on- the part of eternity we can know a little of. I liked this book very much, but the reader should be warned it is not a light read and not written as completely in Joan Didion's famously sharp style as her later works.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Michael Wolfe on November 10, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This first novel by one of modern America's prose-writing treasures is set in a part of California no one associates with the Golden State: the Sacramento Delta. The emotional and physical geography of the book blend seamlessly. Didion has since critiqued this book herself, in her much later prose reflection on California, "Where I Was From." She's a bit hard on her former self. This is a lucid, hard etched short novel on the same general theme as Tolstoi's "Anna Karenina": that is, how a uniquely unhappy family got that way. Didion is of an old California family. She takes no false pride in that, here or elsewhere. There is not a useless or spongy sentence in the whole book. Writers will be reminded of what they're supposed to be doing when they pick up a pen.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By E. Kutinsky on September 25, 2006
Format: Paperback
There's a wealth of evidence in Run River (Didion's first book, published in 1963) that the world was to get one of its great writers, but it gets lost a bit in the story. Using a sort of end-of-the-golden era view of Sacramento land booms as its backdrop, it follows Lily and Everett, holdouts of the wealthy Knight and McClellan pioneer families that struck it rich in Northern California, an era described by Didion as "the cutting clean which was to have redeemed them all." Didion's sense of location and the specifics of the era is remarkable, so it takes little effort to be interested in the events, but set up as it is a framed story revolving around a murder, 20 years of backstory, and then the conclusion of the murder, she seems far too willing to make Run River an act of condemnation. I picked up Run River as a fervent reader of Didion's astonishing nonfiction works, and felt a little dismayed at first at my willingness to avoid reading the book. It's a feeling that goes away - the middle section of the book is filled with flawed, impish characters rendered in empathetic specifics, and is full of the humanely observed understatments that make Didion's best work so accessible (I am convinced no writer can devastate more with a seemingly average sentence - perfectly interrupted, of course). Still, returning to the murder at the end of the book, my reluctance returned, and I realized Didion's failure is to make the book a declaration of decay, to turn her events "tragic" (or, really, the stuff of nighttime soaps) in an attempt to critique the California pioneer identity. All this winds up doing is rendering the fates of her characters not all that important.Read more ›
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Brendon on January 23, 2011
Format: Paperback
I'll keep this brief. This is one of the best novels about California since The Grapes of Wrath. A story of farmers, soldiers, husbands, wives, sex, deceit and land. Didion has a strong grasp on the American idiom of postwar America. It exposes and demystifies the dark side of "The Greatest Generation" while at the same time being fairly nonjudgemental. These are human beings, with just as many feelings as anyone else. Didion makes the characters realistic struggle to be good truly engaging and extremely heartfelt. With each passing chapter the reader feels a pang of torment knowing the characters tragic fall from grace will be unavoidable. Despite its quite depressing qualities (and there are a great deal of them, expertly explored by Didion) it is an enthralling read. If you like socially aware fiction, this is for you.
Easily one of the strongest and expertly crafted American novels of the 20th century and maybe the best novel about California next to Grapes of Wrath.
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