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By Nightfall

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By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham

By Nightfall

Current Status:
In Season
Michael Cunningham
Farrar, Straus & Giroux

We gave it a B

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author (The Hours) returns with By Nightfall, a portrait of a middle-aged married man, Soho art dealer Peter Harris, who loves his wife Rebecca even as his heart is sent tumbling by the sudden presence of her younger, troubled brother in their comfortable lives. There are sentences here so powerfully precise and beautiful that they almost hover above the page. Whether describing Peter’s insomniac’s meal of a Klonopin and a juice glass full of vodka, or his anxiety over what his choice in footwear announces to the world, or his muffled desire to be stunned by beauty and art, Michael Cunningham renders Peter whole and lifelike. The man is a mess, even as the reader observes him capably handling the minutiae of his very full, very chic life. However, there’s not much of a plot to hold on to here, and Peter, in the end, is not a wholly moving character. ”We don’t care about Emma Bovary or Anna Karenina or Raskolnikov because they’re good,” writes Cunningham. ”We care about them because they’re not admirable, because they’re us, and because great writers have forgiven them for it.” There’s no question that Cunningham is an astonishingly great writer. But this reader wanted to care more. B

See all of this week’s reviews