*Part of The Book Club*
Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion is superb. As a ran of The Bell Jar I felt this was similar, although more grown up. This could be just due to the time in my life when I read them – Plath is a feature on almost every A Level reading list, however Didion appeared in the past year.
The novel follows Maria and her life in Hollywood, including her relationship with her estranged husband and the strange lives of those around her.
Didion’s writing isn’t for everyone, I suggested it to a friend and after about fifty pages she handed it back to me. Personally, I loved it. The way Didion writes gets under your skin and, to be honest, exhausts you. This exhaustion isn’t necessarily bad, it’s caused by the need to think about this bleak text that explores personal chaos and chaos of society. Didion makes you feel something deep within you, this isn’t a book to take to the beach, but to be read in the quiet hours of the day.
The writing doesn’t shy away from being brutally honest and in some places upsetting. However, for me it is a must-read and something I will definitely be re-reading in the future.
One of the parts that I loved about this book was Maria’s abortion. Didion shows the problem with illegal abortions and the lengths women used to have to go to in America and cements my belief that women should never have to go to the lengths that Didion depicts. Didion also explores the mental strain this takes on Maria, and one image that will stay with me forever is the idea of the baby and body parts being in the pipe work. This novel really is incredibly, brutally beautiful.
Looking for a bit more? Why not read ‘Maria knew what ‘nothing’ means’ by Lore Segal in the New York Times. An article from when the novel was first published – be aware, there are spoilers!