By Nightfall: A Novel

By Nightfall: A Novel

by Michael Cunningham

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Overview

A New York Times Bestseller

Peter and Rebecca Harris, midforties, are prosperous denizens of Manhattan. He's an art dealer, she's an editor. They live well. They have their troubles—their ebbing passions, their wayward daughter, and certain doubts about their careers—but they feel as though they're happy. Happy enough. Until Rebecca's much younger, look-alike brother, Ethan (known in the family as Mizzy, short for the Mistake), comes to visit. And after he arrives, nothing will ever be the same again.

This poetic and compelling masterpiece is a heartbreaking look at a marriage and the way we now live. Full of shocks and aftershocks, By Nightfall is a novel about the uses and meaning of beauty, and the place of love in our lives.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312610432
Publisher: Picador
Publication date: 08/30/2011
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 476,509
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Michael Cunningham's novel The Hours won both the Pulitzer Prize and a PEN/Faulkner Award, and became an Academy Award–winning film, starring Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, and Meryl Streep. An earlier novel, A Home at the End of the World, was recently made into a film, starring Colin Farrell, Dallas Roberts, Sissy Spacek, and Robin Wright Penn. He lives in New York.

Hometown:

New York, New York

Date of Birth:

November 6, 1952

Place of Birth:

Cincinnati, Ohio

Education:

B.A., Stanford University, 1975; M.F.A., University of Iowa, 1980

Reading Group Guide

About this Guide
The following author biography and list of questions about By Nightfall are intended as resources to aid individual readers and book groups who would like to learn more about the author and this book. We hope that this guide will provide you a starting place for discussion, and suggest a variety of perspectives from which you might approach By Nightfall.

About the Book
Peter and Rebecca Harris, midforties, are prosperous denizens of Manhattan. He's an art dealer, she's an editor. They live well. They have their troubles—their ebbing passions, their wayward daughter, and certain doubts about their careers—but they feel as though they're happy. Happy enough. Until Rebecca's much younger, look-alike brother, Ethan (known in the family as Mizzy, short for the Mistake), comes to visit. And after he arrives, nothing will ever be the same again.

This poetic and compelling masterpiece is a heartbreaking look at a marriage and the way we now live. Full of shocks and aftershocks, By Nightfall is a novel about the uses and meaning of beauty, and the place of love in our lives.

About the Author
Michael Cunningham's novel The Hours won both the Pulitzer Prize and a PEN/Faulkner Award, and became an Academy Award–winning film, starring Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, and Meryl Streep. An earlier novel, A Home at the End of the World, was recently made into a film, starring Colin Farrell, Dallas Roberts, Sissy Spacek, and Robin Wright Penn. He lives in New York.


1. What were your first impressions of Peter and Rebecca? What aspects of their marriage were presented in the opening scenes as they observed a traffic accident, attended a party, and went to bed?

2. Ethan's nickname originated as a reference to his parents' unplanned parenthood so late in life. Did the label shape his impressions of himself, or were his problems inevitable? Did his parents and his sisters, Rosemary, Julianne, and Rebecca, expect too little of him?

3. How did Peter's and Rebecca's families influence them well into adulthood? What did Peter and Rebecca offer each other when they were first dating? How did the basis for their attraction change over the years?

4. What is Peter's role in the lives of the artists he represents, beyond securing a high price for their work? What intangibles does he sell his buyers? What makes him good at his job?

5. How does the concept of leverage play out in By Nightfall? Who are the novel's most vulnerable and most powerful characters?

6. How does Uta's philosophy of life different from Peter's? How does she balance the reality of her role as a businesswoman with the intuitive and emotional aspects of her profession? For her, is there any distinction between her profession and her passions?

7. What does By Nightfall say about making art, and marketing it? How does Peter's work compare to Rebecca's in shaping the futures of creative individuals? What new freedoms and challenges does twenty-first-century American culture bring to creative fields, and to our personal lives?

8. Ultimately, what is Bea blaming her father for? Is she right to blame him? What does he teach her to expect from men? When Rebecca worries about her daughter, what fears is she also expressing about her own future?

9. What purposes does sex serve for the novel's primary characters? How did sexuality shape Rebecca's self-esteem before and after she was married? What longings is Peter responding to at the moment of the kiss? For Mizzy, does sex present anything more than an opportunity to be manipulative?

10. How does the purpose of marriage evolve throughout Peter and Rebecca's life together? What reasons do they have for remaining married after Bea has left for college? What identity did marriage create for them in their careers?

11. Michael Cunningham provides us with Peter's thoughts throughout By Nightfall. How would the novel have unfolded if it had been told from Rebecca's point of view instead?

12. Is Mizzy a victim or a victimizer, or both? If he were your little brother, would you respond to him the way Rebecca does?

13. The novel concludes with the beginning of an honest dialogue. How much of Peter and Rebecca's previous talks had been truthful? Had they been honest with themselves? What predictions do you have for the closing line's conversation and its aftermath?

14. Discuss the novel's title: What symbolic nightfall exists in the characters' lives? How does it apply to the concept of aging and other transitions that may seem difficult to navigate in the "dark"?

15. Through his fiction, what has Cunningham shown us about the nature of love and longing? What new facets are revealed in By Nightfall? What role do artists (literary, visual, and otherwise) play in his storylines?

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By Nightfall 3.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 132 reviews.
GEORGIAMOON More than 1 year ago
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.
TheCrowdedLeaf More than 1 year ago
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.
Kris_Stacey More than 1 year ago
Moving book that will stay in your mind for a good while.
MichaelTravisJasper More than 1 year ago
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"
St.CroixSue on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was drawn in by the reading of Michael Cunningham's book, which centers on the character of Peter, a middle-aged age dealer in Manhattan. Cunningham's prose at times was stunningly beautiful and brilliantly honest. I was pulled into the mind and flowing thoughts of Peter in his anguished search for beauty, love, and meaning.
suetu on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Neither the film of The Hours nor the reviews of Specimen Days inspired me to want to give Michael Cunningham a try, despite the urgings of a respected friend. However, By Nightfall, coming in at 256 pages was a temptation I couldn't resist. Basically, this novel is a character study of New York art dealer Peter Harris. Saying that it's a character study doesn't mean that nothing happens. The catalyst of events in the book is the visit of his wife's aimless younger brother Ethan, known as Mizzy (for "the mistake") in the family. Happily married, heterosexual Peter suddenly finds himself attracted to this younger, male version of his wife. That brief description sounds lurid, but this book is far from it. It's as much about Peter's thoughts on art as it is about sexuality. And the reason the book worked so fantastically well for me is that, in Peter, Michael Cunningham has created a character that absolutely fascinated me. I was captivated by the world he lived in and the way he thought. There is a certain amount of suspense as the novel draws to a close. I read it in a day, and though starving, refused to break for dinner until I had finished the book. In fact, I literally found myself holding my breath as I read the final sentences. As far as introductions go, this one was an overwhelming success. Highly recommended.
teddyballgame on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This character driven novel disappointed me. The only character the reader gets to know is Peter - a very self centered, egotistical, conflicted, middle-aged man. He never really captivated me. The best word to describe him is pathetic. There were also a few parts to the book that seemed completely unrealistic. A random naked run-in between Peter and his wife's younger brother in the kitchen of their home seemed forced. In addition, there were too many homosexual references and themes in the book. I understood where the book was going without the author completely bashing me over the head with it. Finally, the wife's younger brother's nickname of Mizzy (short for The Mistake). His real name is Ethan. Who in their right mind would allow a member of their family (even if he was a mistake) to be nicknamed Mizzy in reference to that? No one. This is exactly what I mean. The book is supposed to be a character driven novel that gets into the inner turmoil and conflicts of every day middle aged life. However, there were way too many parts of this book that seemed completely unrealistic (at least with my knowledge of people and the world).Cunningham's writing is very good. He does come off a little uppity about his knowledge of the arts. All in all, it kept me reading until the end primarily because the book wasn't very long. The limited plot was relatively predictable and the characters were pretty opaque except for Peter, who was just pathetic. This is definitely not a book I would recommend to someone looking for a strong character driven novel with some semblance of a plot.
jasonpettus on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)This is my first novel by the much-loved Michael Cunningham, although I'm already familiar with the plot of his Pulitzer-winning The Hours (which will be getting reviewed itself later this year, as part of the "CCLaP 100" essay series), and I also once had a chance when younger to read the first 50 pages of a friend's copy of A Home at the End of the World; and so that's why my first reaction when starting his latest was to turn this review into a snotty one-line joke, to express my dissatisfaction with him repeating so many of the same tropes found in his other work. ("Dear Michael Cunningham: Seriously, enough with the 'Gay Freudian Incest Fantasy As Sexual Awakening,' 'Obsessed With The Angelically Golden Downy Body Hair Of My Male Relatives' crap. You're really starting to creep me out. Sincerely, Jason Pettus.") But still, I found myself fascinated with the milieu Cunningham chose to tell this story, the main reason I kept reading; that is, the world of upper-class bohemian-bourgeoise Manhattanites in an age when their professional worlds are crumbling around them, in this case a gallery-owning husband and magazine-editor wife who both are unsure if their industries are even going to exist five years from now, and the evermore desperate acts and moral compromises they lower themselves to in order to hold onto their million-dollar SoHo loft and all the other accoutrements they've gotten so glibly used to, a riveting subplot of its own even as the main storyline is a character-based one that could technically take place anywhere.And of course all the stories about Cunningham's breathtakingly beautiful prose are true, which also helped carry me along, a kind of attention to detail and a wild sense of extrapolation usually only seen in certain breeds of ridiculously overanalytical art-school girlfriends (oh, you know who I mean -- the ones who are great in bed but who so completely overthink every single detail of your relationship, you're exhausted after just six weeks of dating them); and while I was disappointed at first with that main character-based storyline I mentioned (basically, yet another look at a chiseled twentysomething frequently shirtless bisexual trainwreck who upends the formerly staid life of some middle-classers), let me confess that the surprise-filled plot gets better and better as it continues, precisely for being more and more unexpected, with a gangbusters ending that's much more satisfying than its lackluster beginning. (Also, I was intrigued with the way it examines the same fundamental question at the heart of the infamous 1970s play Equus as well, of whether spiritually deflated middle-agers should in fact be jealous of the mentally ill for at least being passionate about something, and should therefore be allowed to live with that illness instead of trying to be "cured.") So when all is said and done, I guess I was actually pretty pleased with this novel after all, even while coming across lots of details that made me roll my eyes; and for sure it comes highly recommended to those who enjoy dark-tinged character-based stories about aging, sexuality and mental health. If nothing else, it definitely has me excited now about reading The Hours later this year.Out of 10: 9.2
GCPLreader on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Is it possible to be unhappy and yet, at the same time, be unaware of it? Michael Cunningham knows how to drive home his themes--the melancholy of longing, the quest for beauty. Peter Harris is an art dealer in New York City whose core sensibilities come into question with the arrival of Mizzy (short for The Mistake), his wife's much younger, beautiful brother. In Mizzy, Peter sees a younger, more impulsive version of his wife. But the audacious revelation of this novel is why Mizzy shows an interest in Peter. Where was the wife's story here? Late in the novel, the lead Peter Harris realizes that he's guilty of the terrible sin of self-centeredness; he's not considered the inner lives and turmoils of those he loves. So, perhaps that's why Michael Cunningham makes the decision to omit Rebecca Harris's narrative. In comparison to Franzen's The Corrections and Freedom where each family members' story is so well developed, here I almost feel cheated. Pity Cunningham didn't flesh out the characters more in this too short novel.
mlanzotti on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Michael Cunningham's writing in this book is as always,clever,intellectual,riveting. The novel focuses on his main character,a New York art dealer and his internal dialogue as he goes about his life. Sometimes he is arrogant,sometimes insecure. He is in a long-term marriage and that is cleverly writtten. When his wife's feckless younger brother, Mizzy, moves in he finds himself powerfully attracted to him. The scene that lost me was a homo-erotic, lovingly detailed discription of Mizzy standing naked at the refrigerator. Didn't want to go there. Well done though.
TheCrowdedLeaf on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
RidgewayGirl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Michael Cunningham's newest book comes out about five years too late. By Nightfall concerns Peter Harris, a SoHo loft-dwelling art dealer married to Rebecca, an arts magazine editor. Their lives are just how they want them to be, allowing them to look on everyone richer, poorer or not living in the right parts of Manhattan with a sort of amused contempt. They do have problems; a moderately estranged child who didn't finish college, but dropped out to bartend, Peter's a little tired of the art scene and Rebecca's little brother has come to visit and may be doing drugs again.The rich can have problems, there's no question of that, but wealth can smooth the edges and consequences in a way that does make it harder to sympathize. When Rebecca's brother, Mizzy, who has dropped out of Exeter and Yale several times, complains that his family doesn't have the money to put him into the comfortable kind of rehab that might tempt him to stay, it's hard to find much sympathy. And when Rebecca and Peter laugh mockingly about the possibility of any sort of art existing in Billings, Montana, they lost the small amount of sympathy they'd built up with me. Not because I have any particular fondness for Billings; I've never even been there. It's just hard to pity characters who are charmless snobs.The story itself is slight. Mizzy comes to stay with Rebecca and Peter and Peter, tired of his job, becomes involved in Mizzy's life in an unwise way. The characters are, as mentioned above, unlikeable in the way that Anna Wintour is unlikeable; not through their own personal afflictions, but because they are so contemptuous of those they perceive as beneath them. But the writing is lovely. There's a passage where Peter explores Manhattan at night that is perfectly written and even the more ordinary chapters are beautiful.They were in what the Taylors called the junk room, because it was the only room except Cyrus and Beverly's that had a double bed. It had once been a guest room but, the Taylors having more use for junk than they did for guests, had long been devoted to storage, with the understanding that the occasional guest could always be installed there, with apologies.Some--many--would have found this room disheartening, would in fact have been unnerved by the Taylors' entire lives. Peter was enchanted. Here he was among people too busy (with students, with patients, with books) to keep it all in perfect running order; people who'd rather have lawn parties and game nights than clean the tile grout with a toothbrush (although the Taylors' grout could, undeniably, have used at least minor attention).
CBJames on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have read all of Michael Cunningham's novels, even Specimen Days. (I deserve some credit for reading Specimen Days.) He didn't come on the radar of most non-gay readers until his mega-hit The Hours, but there were two books before that: A Home at the End of the World and Flesh and Blood. Count me as a fan of both. So, I was excited to receive notice from my library that it was may turn to read his new novel, By Nightfall. I read the entire novel in a single sitting one rainy Saturday evening. (I confess, I did a bit of skimming.)By Nightfall is about a fortyish straight man who lives with his wife in a loft apartment in New York City's SoHo District. Both have what most of us would consider glamorous jobs: she works for a culture magazine and he owns a successful art gallery. He is slightly estranged from his grown daughter and worried about the future of his gallery.By chapter two I was dreading the thought of spending another 180 pages with a novel about elite New York society written by a member of it. Do these people have nothing better to do than write novels about themselves? But, because I am a big fan of Mr. Cunningham, and because I kept hoping I'd fall in love with the characters like I did with A Home at the End of the World or with the novel's execution like so many of us did with The Hours, I kept reading. After a while, I was glad that I did. But then in the end, I kind of wished I hadn't.By Nightfall can be read as an inside look at the New York art world. If you read it this way, you'll find it's quite good. So much time is spent following the main character through his workday that By Nightfall almost becomes a novel about work. Mr. Cunningham's portrayal of the art world, the artists, the patrons, the deal-making, the marketing and the back-biting, all have the ring of truth and all make for interesting reading. Mr. Cunningham invents several artists and their work. My favorite is a woman who films random people on the street and creates installation pieces around them. A man in a raincoat entering a building becomes a celebrity when displayed on a monitor surrounded by memorabilia:--action figures, lunchboxes, posters, Halloween costumes for children-- all featuring his likeness. That's an art installation I'd love to see. I might even buy one of the action figures.Meantime, the much younger, drug addicted, brother-in-law comes to stay. The main character finds himself attracted to this beautiful young man who spends most of his time lounging around the loft apartment sans clothing. Slowly, the main character is overcome by a physical desire he has never felt before, leaving him more than willing to excuse the brother-in-law's drug use. This is all portrayed so believably that I've no doubt it happens to straight men all the time. Not to any straight men I know, but then I don't move in an elite New York social scene. Towards the end of the novel there is a twist worthy of a Henry James story when a brief dialogue reveals that all we thought we knew is wrong. This is followed by a second twist that struck me as a cheap shot, unworthy of a novel as good as By Nightfall.So I didn't like it. Then I liked it. Then I loved it. Then I didn't like anymore. I think you're just on your own this time.
writestuff on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Peter and Rebecca Harris live in Manhattan¿s SoHo district. Peter, an art dealer, and Rebecca, an editor, have one child, Bea, who has dropped out of college to sling drinks at a bar in Boston. Both in their mid-40s, they live a contemporary urban life filled with high end parties, end of the day Martinis, and busy days rubbing elbows with the rich and obnoxious. They have worked their entire lives for this type of lifestyle¿and yet, the cracks in their marriage are beginning to widen, fueled by a wayward daughter and middle-age.What marriage doesn¿t involve uncountable accretions, a language of gestures, a sense of recognition sharp as a toothache? Unhappy, sure. What couple isn¿t unhappy, at least part of the time? But how can the divorce rate be, as they say, skyrocketing? How miserable would you have to get to be able to bear the actual separation, to go off and live your life so utterly unrecognized? ¿ from By Nightfall, page 8 -So when Rebecca¿s much younger brother, Ethan (referred to as ¿Mizzy¿ or The Mistake) arrives to spend time with Rebecca and Peter, the precarious balance between them shifts. Ethan is a drug addict with no real sense of direction. He is charming, beautiful (almost like one of the bronze statues which Peter sells), and a liar¿and yet, there is something about Mizzy which Peter cannot deny.The mystery of Mizzy: Where did the boy genius go? He had been, as a child, expected to be a neurosurgeon or a great novelist. And now he¿s considering (or, okay, refusing to consider) law school. Was the burden of his potential too much for him? ¿ from By Nightfall, page 58 -Narrated from Peter¿s limited point of view, Michael Cunningham¿s novel takes a hard look at urban professional life, modern marriage, and sexual identity. Peter is clearly struggling with a mid-life crisis. He reflects on the death of his older brother, Matthew, who was gay and begins to question his own identity as a husband, father, and man. Peter¿s memories of his brother are complicated by his fantasies for a girl named Joanna who dated his brother in high school ¿ especially since he now knows that the adult Joanna ¿ ¿hale and handsome, cheerfully pushing forty with a wallet full of photos, a pretty and sturdy woman with no hint of sex about her¿ ¿ veers sharply away from the high school Joanna unfastening the top of her bikini on a trip to the lake. All of Peter¿s memories, feelings and insecurities are a jumbled mess infiltrating his present life.A virus ate Matthew. Time ate Joanna. What¿s eating Peter? ¿ from By Nightfall, page 117 -It is not hard to predict where the novel is heading as Peter finds himself questioning the predictable course of his life and yearning for a little danger and excitement, something to ¿upend his own life.¿Michael Cunningham¿s prose is ironic, observant and sharply rendered. Which is why I found myself dismayed that I did not love this novel. None of the characters are terribly likable. They are self-absorbed, and a little too carefully constructed. Peter¿s actions and choices seemed improbable to me. Rebecca was like a ghost of a person ¿ sketched out, but not fully realized. And yet, I kept reading because I was curious. I wanted to know the ultimate resolution. And I thought I did know exactly what was going to happen. But, it was here where Cunningham surprised me with an ending I did not anticipate.So how do I rate this book? On the one hand, there is no denying Cunningham¿s power as a writer. He can spin a sentence like almost no other contemporary author out there. And he manages to take the reader in a direction, only to change it up at the end in a surprising way. On the other hand, I disliked the characters and found the plot a bit unbelievable. The book started out strong to me, but I got tired of Peter¿s self-serving voice. Fortunately, the end of the book left me feeling more satisfied. Sensitive readers (which I am not), may find some of the content in th
starlight70 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I find the book irritating, after turning a few chapters on it. I do not know if this Cunningham's style, but it is like there is no good issues to Peter's dilemma. So, we are dragged through unnecessary characters' conversation just to prolong a book which is supposed to be about a man and his brother-in-law. I don't even know the deal with Bea, Peter's daughter and why she is even in the book. There were so many if's in the book that I just wish Cunningham made up his mind on where he would want his characters to go.His first book I have read. Most likely the last.
Florinda on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I haven¿t read all that much of Michael Cunningham¿s work. I liked The Hours well enough, but it hinged on a gimmick, and I might have appreciated it more if I¿d ever read Mrs. Dalloway (I still haven¿t, and it¿s not on the horizon. Judge me if you must). Cunningham¿s most recent novel, By Nightfall, stands on its own...and is one of the finest books I¿ve read this year.Peter and Rebecca Harris are in that early-midlife phase that can call a lot into question for people; the kids are leaving home, the career may be comfortable but stalled, and you¿ve done well enough that there doesn¿t seem much to want from life beyond what you already have. They are, as the plot synopsis says, ¿happy enough,¿ particularly when they don¿t dwell on it too much. However, there are bumps in their road, and Rebecca¿s little brother Ethan becomes a big one.By Nightfall hinges on aimless, beautiful Ethan, known as ¿Mizzy,¿ or ¿The Mistake,¿ within his family because he was born late and unexpectedly as his sisters were entering adulthood (he¿s only a few years older than Peter and Rebecca¿s daughter, Bea). His visit with Peter and Rebecca is prompted by his recent decision that he wants to ¿do something in art;¿ it¿s his latest whim in a life seemingly propelled by whims, and Rebecca hopes that her art-dealer husband can be of some help to her brother in determining what that actually might be.I don¿t want to discuss much more of the plot of By Nightfall; it¿s not strongly plot-driven, but the storyline took some turns that I didn¿t expect, and I don¿t want spoil the discovery for other readers. However, what made this novel compulsively readable for me was Cunningham¿s writing - beautifully flowing, evocative and emotionally affecting. Particularly effective was his choice to narrate in third person limited. The only perspective the reader gets is Peter¿s, and first-person narration might have made him come across as self-involved and self-indulgent; and while the third-person viewpoint doesn¿t entirely avoid that at times, I felt it rendered him much more sympathetically, and certain events in the story would have had a different impact on me if I hadn¿t viewed him with that degree of sympathy.I did not expect By Nightfall to engage and move me as much as it did, and I always appreciate surprises like that - therefore, it¿s not surprising that this novel will likely have a spot on my 2011 ¿Books of the Year¿ list.
tixylix on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was looking forward to reading this book, even though I hadn't read any others by Cunningham. I think I was probably intrigued by the cover, the blurb and the knowledge that he had written the Hours. It wasn't so much that I was disappointed with this book, just that I think it lacks a little bit of substance.The plot centres around the self-absorbed Peter, an art dealer in New York City. Ostensibly he has everything he needs but he is dissatisfied with his lot. It's sort of a midlife crisis, it seems, an ennui with life. He cannot seem to empathise with anyone - his daughter, his wife (without spoiling the plot, he is clearly unaware of her feelings), and others in his life. He notes that he has no friends and on reflection, it's unsurprising. It's hard to feel any real connection with the characters, they are spoiled and bored, but I did think it as a well written book and the twists at the end did catch me by surprise. Worth a read but not something I would go back to.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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beardocnj More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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".
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago