Customer Reviews for

By Nightfall

Average Rating 3
( 119 )
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5 Star

(21)

4 Star

(27)

3 Star

(41)

2 Star

(13)

1 Star

(17)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

Brilliant insights to the human condition-A challenging subject matter-

Peter and Rebecca, a middle aged New York City couple, a grown daughter off to Boston, and Rebecca's younger brother coming to visit are the main characters. News of Rebecca's brother's visit brings apprehension and concern. Still, he arrives, straight from somewhere in...
Peter and Rebecca, a middle aged New York City couple, a grown daughter off to Boston, and Rebecca's younger brother coming to visit are the main characters. News of Rebecca's brother's visit brings apprehension and concern. Still, he arrives, straight from somewhere in the Far East. His arrival affects both, but not more than Peter, who is surprisingly finding himself drawn to the young lad after a couple of mistaken encounters that allow Peter to see him for the first time. They live in upper-class Soho, modern-day Manhattan, and the appearance of Ethan tests the couple's relationship in ways none of them ever would have seen coming. The author has brilliant insights into the human condition and gets it across beautifully in his writing technique dealing with a challenging subject matter.

posted by GEORGIAMOON on December 21, 2010

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Most Helpful Critical Review

1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

Not My Cup of Tea

It's never a good sign when you struggle to finish a book. Since the writer is unquestionably skilled and intelligent, perhaps the point of it all was simply beyond me. It was meandering and made me feel I'd wasted my time and money reading it. I didn't care about the c...
It's never a good sign when you struggle to finish a book. Since the writer is unquestionably skilled and intelligent, perhaps the point of it all was simply beyond me. It was meandering and made me feel I'd wasted my time and money reading it. I didn't care about the characters or their incredibly charmed lives and the story just didn't grab me. I couldn't decide whether it felt more like therapy or like homework. To that point, it seems well-suited for book club discussion...

posted by Kiki-Travels on March 8, 2011

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  • Posted December 21, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Brilliant insights to the human condition-A challenging subject matter-

    Peter and Rebecca, a middle aged New York City couple, a grown daughter off to Boston, and Rebecca's younger brother coming to visit are the main characters. News of Rebecca's brother's visit brings apprehension and concern. Still, he arrives, straight from somewhere in the Far East. His arrival affects both, but not more than Peter, who is surprisingly finding himself drawn to the young lad after a couple of mistaken encounters that allow Peter to see him for the first time. They live in upper-class Soho, modern-day Manhattan, and the appearance of Ethan tests the couple's relationship in ways none of them ever would have seen coming. The author has brilliant insights into the human condition and gets it across beautifully in his writing technique dealing with a challenging subject matter.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 25, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    A complex novel that sticks with you after you've finished.

    Michael Cunningham's latest book since Flesh and Blood (2007) is a literary internal monologue of sorts. A book about that strange and complicated world of Adulthood. A book that exposes our fears through its words, but charmingly underestimates itself.

    Told in a close-third-person narrative, we follow Peter Harris and his wife Rebecca as their every day routine is upended by the reappearance of Rebecca's nomad younger brother, Mizzy. Peter is our main character, and the beauty and the crux of Cunningham's novel is that for as much as we want to like Peter, he makes it impossible.

    We dislike Peter, but we understand him, and eventually, we feel sorry for him; for during all the pages leading up to the end, he's tried to justify his actions to us, only to be foiled by fate himself. He's the victim in the end. He fell into waywardness by claiming it all happened by "accident." Only knowing it was happening made it not an accident, and in the end he is exposed.

    We struggle to like Peter and his flaws and issues because for better or worse, he is our information source. We're in his head, his thoughts, his weaknesses, his poses and postures. We know his script and his stage directions. It becomes difficult to tell if we don't like him because that's the way he is, or because Cunningham's writing is flawed, thereby making the book flawed. By Nightfall is one long (short) existentialist angst-ridden character-driven novel. Like he writes, Cunningham seems to be "still working something out" with this novel, and that's the either the brilliance or the downfall of it. There's a chance that it's all one big cliche. I can't tell. By Nightfall is like a work of art that you have to think about and return back to many times in order to understand, but understanding isn't meant to happen, so it never does.

    Did I love it as much as I loved The Hours? In the end, yes I think I did, but for very different reasons.

    *Update 10/23/2010: After thinking over this book for the last couple days I've realized there's something unsettling about By Nightfall that I can't quite put my finger on. It's the reasons I say it's hard to like Peter; it's the reason I think this novel is either amazing or amazingly cliche. For those of you who loved The Hours and think that's why you might like to read this one, start it with an open mind. It's nothing like The Hours, but that doesn't make it bad. Something has to be said for the fact that it's still got me thinking about it four days later, afterall.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 22, 2011

    Highly Recommend

    Moving book that will stay in your mind for a good while.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 8, 2011

    Not My Cup of Tea

    It's never a good sign when you struggle to finish a book. Since the writer is unquestionably skilled and intelligent, perhaps the point of it all was simply beyond me. It was meandering and made me feel I'd wasted my time and money reading it. I didn't care about the characters or their incredibly charmed lives and the story just didn't grab me. I couldn't decide whether it felt more like therapy or like homework. To that point, it seems well-suited for book club discussion...

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 11, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Shows How Love Can Destroy Your Life, or Give You a Reason to Live

    This book is a bit short and compact, but contains a rather interesting story. There isn't a lot of action here. On the surface, it's the tale of a middle-aged, married man falling in love with his young brother-in-law. However, on a deeper level, it's about what makes someone feel successful. Most of all, you will think about what makes a person stay in a relationship, and the difference between complacency and actual happiness. The story also gives one cause to consider the nature of sexual orientation, and the fact that it is somewhat fluid for many people. True thinkers will be fascinated by this glimpse into the human heart.
    Michael Travis Jasper, Author of the Novel "To Be Chosen"

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 24, 2013

    Boring

    I couldn't finish this book. The author's style of writing was boring, the characters were lacking personality. Didn't seem as if much was going on and just didn't holdmy attention enough to finish reading it. Waste of money and of time.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 8, 2013

    Michael Cunningham is one of my favorite authors.  I've read - a

    Michael Cunningham is one of my favorite authors.  I've read - and thoroughly enjoyed - everything he's written to date.  But he missed the mark by a large margin with this book.  His style of writing, with looooooong, run-on sentences, chopped up with interspersed narrative that is supposed to reflect "inner thoughts" (what's up with that?) bog the reader down and, ultimately are annoying.  Further, as other critics have noted, the characters are difficult to care about.  They're tentative (especially the protagonist, Peter, and come across as flawed but wishy-washy.  Peter is the fine, upstanding citizen with a solid, if boring, job.  No hint of questioning sexuality.  Yet here comes Mizzy (is he gay?  bi?) and suddenly Peter's world is rocked with just a tentative kiss?  Yes, I continued reading avidly, but only with the hope that SOMETHING would wake these characters from the stupor they all seem to be in.  I wish I had skipped it.

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  • Posted March 4, 2012

    An amazing journey of denial and self-discovery

    If I hadn't grown up outside of New York, lived there for eight years, then moved back, I don't think I would have appreciated all the things the author was trying to accomplish. Setting the scene with descriptions of city life, of the clothes being worn, the restaurants attended, the parties, may all seem superficial and snobby, but when I lived there, it was so easy to fall into that. I rarely got to hobnob with the higher echelons, but it's utterly believable to hear everything in the voice it was presented in. Especially when Peter, as well off as he is, has the job he has in the art world. He even describes himself as a servant, and how he was keep track of all those things to have his pulse remain on the heart of the city, to find the best and hottest for his gallery, and his clients. He must keep up appearances. It is in this minutiae, of the city, of the city life, the fashion, the food, and especially the art (get that Wikipedia open) that Michael Cunningham brings us into the story.
    With every book of his I've read, I am never disappointed in finding sentences, clauses even, that go so deep to the heart of things. He can write like poetry, and never feel pretentious (unless of course, his characters are pretentious, like in this book) But, even then, things still leap off the page at you. The character of Peter is great in this, he loves art, he seeks out art to sell, so he is always searching, reveling, discovering, and loving beauty. But, as we soon find out, when his struggling brother-in-law, comes to stay with him and his wife, or when reaching out to his daughter, living in Boston, we also find out how his artistic temperament leads to mercurial shifts in the dynamics of his relationships with his family members. Also, Michael Cunningham delves into and discovers the events in Peter's past that correlate with his feelings and actions in the present. This type of insight can only be reached in our own lives, if we give our most treasured memories the same care, devotion, and meditation, as Michael Cunningham does in the construction of his main character.
    In summary, the ultimate plot of the book might seem conventional, but I gasped aloud at some points, like I was reading a thriller or something. So many things are such a shock, and yet seemed so logical. The way emotions and standpoints shifted or edged one way or the other, but never seemed to be conclusive or settle, reminded me of the book THE ELUSIVE EMBRACE, and how that book describes a subculture of New York, and how the people in it never will and never have to, grow up. They can always reinvent themselves, and sometimes they have to, to stay afloat in the Big Apple.
    The only struggle others might find with this book is the pretentiousness of some of its characters. I've known these people, I've sometimes been these people, but that is no reason not to read it. Some readers can't get past what they are reading, no matter how well it's written, due to subject matter, and that's fine. If you are one of those people, then don't read this. But, I found it utterly moving, so specific sometimes, that I found feelings and thoughts of my own articulated in such detailed ways, that it gave me clarity. Truly, an amazing read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2011

    NO STARS

    A COMPLETE WASTE OF TIME. The plot and characters could not be more boring and as the reader you never care about any of them. Why on earth is Cunningham getting such rave reviews from NYTimes? Have stopped looking at the NYT Best Sellers because apparently their reviewers don't know their heads from their a** as to what is a "GOOD READ".

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 22, 2011

    lack of attribution is disappointing

    I have been a Cunningham fan through all of his books to date. However, I am extrememly disappointed that in "By Nightfall" he makes repeated reference to the line from "Madame Bovary" about human language failing to move the stars to pity and nowhere does he give credit to Flaubert. He either assumed noone will make the connection, or to the contrary, everyone will recognize the concept as originating with Flaubert and, therefore, no need to give attribution. When Graham Greene used this quote he did give proper credit. It seems to me that is the least that Cunningham should have done.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 2, 2011

    Very good book

    Really captures the anxiety of New York art scene. Interesting, well written, and moving in its own way.

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  • Posted February 26, 2011

    Overly Pretentious and Verbose

    This is my first read by Michael Cunningham and if this book is a reflection of his "talents" then my condolences. The plot was lost amongst his overbearing need to describe any asinine thought that crossed the main character's mind. The story was rather pointless and was an endless cycle of miniscule characters with no real value or purpose. I continued reading hoping that by some grace Cunningham would salvage this facade of a novel before it ended. I was wrong.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 15, 2011

    ok read

    I was unsure what this story was telling until about 100 pages. Not a great read just ok

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted December 28, 2010

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    Posted December 9, 2010

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