Review: By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham

By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: September 2010
Category: Literary
Source: Library

Peter and Rebecca Harris: mid-forties denizens of Manhattan’s SoHo, nearing the apogee of committed careers in the arts—he a dealer, she an editor. With a spacious loft, a college-age daughter in Boston, and lively friends, they are admirable, enviable contemporary urbanites with every reason, it seems, to be happy. Then Rebecca’s much younger look-alike brother, Ethan (known in the family as Mizzy, “the mistake”), shows up for a visit. A beautiful, beguiling twenty-three-year-old with a history of drug problems, Mizzy is wayward, at loose ends, looking for direction. And in his presence, Peter finds himself questioning his artists, their work, his career—the entire world he has so carefully constructed.

Like his legendary, Pulitzer Prize–winning novel, The Hours, Michael Cunningham’s masterly new novel is a heartbreaking look at the way we live now. Full of shocks and aftershocks, it makes us think and feel deeply about the uses and meaning of beauty and the place of love in our lives.

My Thoughts:
I read By Nightfall as part of The Literary Others LGBT reading event hosted by Adam at Roof Beam Reader.

By Nightfall was listed at Over the Rainbow Books and was a finalist for gay fiction in the 23rd Annual Lambda Literary Awards.

I know the dude won a Pulitzer for The Hours, and this book was smiled upon by critics as well. But By Nightfall didn’t do it for this girl. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it.

The writing was agreeable. The story was fine. What I didn’t like was the whiff of smarty-pants snobbery. Maybe I’m a sensitive person. Maybe I don’t like a book that talks down about my area of the country. Repeatedly.

In conclusion, it was an ok read. Would I read it again? Nah.

14 thoughts on “Review: By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham

  1. I tend to like books where a person walks in and shakes things up (probably because it was such a book that got me reading adult literature) but it's unfortunate about the way your location is discussed. That sort of thing is really off-putting, and often no matter where you live.


  2. I'm sorry to hear that you were disappointed in this book. I loved, loved, loved The Hours but I haven't had a chance to read any of Cummingham's other novels yet. I don't think I will start with this one.


  3. Interesting review Jennifer.I guess that I would ask, do you think that the snobbery was ironic in any way? Was the author actually criticizing the attitude? From what you wrote it sounds like the answer is no. If that is the case I do not blame you for being a bit put off by this book.


  4. Oh, this is the first time i'm hearing about this book and it does seem quite okay to me. Quite understandable that you get annoyed with books that talk about your country, I mean personally, as a reader, I want to explore the unknown! Great review. 😀 I'm participating in the LGBT Reading Event too and just reviewed my last read. Sarika @ The Readdicts Happy reading!


  5. Nope. Not just you. This was part of a Book Club selection last year, and we all pretty much panned it for similar reasons. The main characters were ridiculously snobby, nothing really happened. It just didn't work on so many levels.


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