Reviews Book

The Year of Magical Thinking

BMJ 2005; 331 doi: (Published 17 November 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;331:1208
  1. John Quin, consultant physician (
  1. Royal Sussex County Hospital, Brighton

    Relatives. Rellies. One of the relatives wants to speak to you. Heartsink. Fair enough, we say—bring them on—but what if the daughter in bed six with the subdural had an international normalised ratio greater than four before she came in? What if said rellie has bought various textbooks on neurosurgery and checks out the New England Journal of Medicine online? What if mum is one of America's most astute and gimlet eyed commentators of modern times? What if mother is none other than the acclaimed US writer and novelist Joan Didion?

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    Joan Didion

    Fourth Estate, £12.99, pp 240 ISBN 0 00 721684 X

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    “If you want to manage this case I'm signing off.” So concludes one stressed out intensive therapy unit (ITU) medic at UCLA (the University of California, Los Angeles), and Didion brilliantly delineates here why she has provoked such a response, why relatives can often become irrational, how her reasoning “was demented, but so was I.” Didion's husband, the writer John Gregory Dunne, …

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