A Refinery29 Best Book of the Year
A Kirkus Reviews Best Fiction Book of the Year
“What Happens at Night retools the Victorian ghost story . . . The novel’s indeterminacy is both intriguing and moving, because it means that one character’s loss is another’s consummation, and an unbroken night is both a source of terror and the condition of a long-desired resting place." Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal
"Humor, threat and dreamlike complications all pile up until What Happens at Night takes you utterly out of this world . . . Cameron's chilly, fanciful setting serves as a latticework around which all sorts of uncertainties accrue––sexual, spiritual, medical, logistical––and identities exist only to be shattered . . . Ominous and beguiling in equal measure, What Happens at Night delivers a nightmare you may want to savor more than once." Michael Upchurch, Seattle Gay News
"This beautifully eerie tale of desire and death goes down like an icy shot of schnapps: first it burns you with its chill, then it ignites in you a lingering fire . . . Cameron reveals himself to be a master at portraying grief and despair, longing and love." Kristen Iversen, Refinery29
"If you are looking for a book with just the right amount of the bizarre, look no further than Peter Cameron’s latest novel . . . What Happens at Night is quite a tasty little atmospheric tale . . . Cameron masterfully constructs a labyrinth of mystery and suspense, drama and intrigue . . . nimble . . . Cameron’s crisp, often spare prose constructs this unusual world and its singular atmosphere perfectly. Sliding subtly out of the realm of the concrete and into the surreal with every page turned, What Happens at Night is a rare journey that will leave the reader both unsettled and utterly satisfied." Beth Mowbray, The Nerd Daily
"A snow-swept journey to the ends of the Earth continues Cameron's exploration of defamiliarized landscapes and the intricacies of human relationships . . . A dreamy fable confronting love, death, and our inevitable inadequacy yet persistence in the face of both." ––Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Skirt[s] the fringes of surreality; everything that transpires is possible, technically, but you can’t escape the feeling that something is different in this snowy clime, that there are mysterious forces working upon these visitors that they will never understand. This is the book I read this year that I’ve thought about the most sincea happy consequence, perhaps, of the author not giving me all the answers." A Literary Hub Favorite Book of the Year
"Calling forth the ghosts of both Franz Kafka and Stefan Zweig, with their depictions of the faded glory of a central Europe about to devour itself as well as the innate absurdity of being a human in such a place (or any place), Peter Cameron’s What Happens at Night provides a distinctly American gloss to the tradition of disorienting and disturbing high Modernism." ––Ed Simon, The Millions, A Most Anticipated Book of the Year
”An especially fine novel . . . There is a deep darkness to be penetrated in this tale." David Masello, The Gay and Lesbian Review
"Perhaps What Happens at Night might have been more aptly titled When Serling Met Sartre. It’s a weirdly compelling mix of all the elements that make us human and all the situations that test our humanity." BookPage
"[A] dreamline, resonant fable . . . Cameron doles out the right amount of eeriness and eccentricity . . . emotionally affecting." ––Publishers Weekly
"[An] atmospheric and philosophical tale . . . The claustrophobic setting somehow brilliantly and counterintuitively creates the space for Cameron (Coral Glynn, 2012) to expand the interiority of his characters, to spelunk down into their psychological labyrinths, and follow the paths wherever they might lead, leaving the reader transfixed and wonderfully disoriented." Booklist
"A menacing, suspenseful novel . . . will keep readers on tenterhooks, wondering how the tension will break." Shelf Awareness
“Faultlessly elegant and quietly menacing, like a tuxedo lined with knives. I can’t think of another book at once so beautiful and so unnerving, so poised between miracle and disaster. Peter Cameron is one of America’s greatest writers, the living stylist I most revere.” Garth Greenwell, author of What Belongs to You and Cleanness
"Terrifying, comic, and heartbreaking . . . We do not always know whether we are in the realm of the real or the hallucinatory in this thrillingly mysterious and gorgeously written novel." Sigrid Nunez, author of The Friend
A snow-swept journey to the ends of the Earth continues Cameron's exploration of defamiliarized landscapes and the intricacies of human relationships.
A husband and wife arrive by train into the endless winter night of a mysterious Arctic region. The woman is dying of cancer; as her body erodes, her connection to—and patience for—her husband vanishes with it, but after suffering a succession of pregnancy losses throughout their marriage, she is determined to provide him with a family, a child, before she dies. They have come to the town of Borgarfjaroasysla (like Cameron's Andorra before it, a name that recalls a real place but which is released from the confines of reality through a reimagined geography and, in this case, a slightly different name) to claim a foundling at the local orphanage, the only place on Earth, given their age and the woman's failing health, that would agree to an adoption. They settle into the vast Borgarfjaroasysla Grand Imperial Hotel, bedecked in the antiquated opulence of a bygone era and, like the town around it, sparsely occupied but filled with eerie tensions. On their first night there, the man ventures down to the hotel bar, a dark, low-ceilinged burrow emanating a red glow through a glass-beaded curtain. Here, over snifters of the regional specialty, a curious liqueur made of lichen "tinged with the silvery blue glow that snow reflects at twilight," he meets a striking, eccentric old woman named Livia Pinheiro-Rima, who quickly assumes a role in the couple's life that's half meddlesome spirit, half fairy godmother. The next morning, rather than delivering them to the orphanage to meet their son, their taxi deposits them at the home of Brother Emmanuel, a renowned healer and the only draw for travelers to the town besides the orphanage, whom Livia has decided the woman needs more than she needs a baby. Having ferried his wife to this enchanted hinterland on the threshold of eternity, where life, nature, and time flow to a dilated rhythm and she embraces the metamorphosis that awaits her, the man emerges, ambivalently, at times reluctantly, into a transformation of his own.
A dreamy fable confronting love, death, and our inevitable inadequacy yet persistence in the face of both.