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The novel is both a portrait of a marriage and a commentary on the history of California. Everett McClellan and his wife, Lily, are the great-grandchildren of pioneers, and what happens to them (murder and betrayal) is suggested as an epilogue to the pioneer experience.
Didion on Run, River
In her 2003 book of essays Where I Was From, Didion turned a critical eye on this novel. She recalled writing it as a homesick girl lately moved from California to New York, and judged it to be a work of false nostalgia, the construction of an idyllic myth of rural Californian life that she knew to never have existed.
In a 1978 interview, Didion said that she had intended the title to be Run River but that the English publisher, Jonathan Cape, inserted a comma; "but it wasn't of very much interest to me because I hated it both ways. The working title was In the Night Season," which her American publisher did not like.
- Linda Kuehl, "Joan Didion, The Art of Fiction No. 71," The Paris Review, Winter, 1978.
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