Friday, December 16, 2011

By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham

The month our bookclub, Bay Bookworms, read By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham.

The plot: Peter and Rebecca Harris are a mid-forties couple living in Manhattan’s SoHo. He's an art dealer, she's an editor. At first they seem to be living an enviable fulfilled life, with a spacious loft, a college-age daughter in Boston, and interesting, artsy friends. Then Rebecca’s much younger look-alike brother, Ethan (known in the family as Mizzy, “the mistake”) shows up for a visit. A beautiful, charismatic twenty-three-year-old with a history of drug problems, Mizzy is at a loose end. Having Mizzy around makes Peter question everything about his world; the artists he represents, his buyers and his wife.

What we thought:
Melinda: When reading By Nightfall, I felt myself cringing. Was I doing this out of disgust for Peter or a little because I too have felt the insecurities of midlife - questioning happiness and career.  It was a quick read with a hopeful ending but not one I would re-read at least until I am well past middle age.

Carson: By Nightfall can be read as a cautionary tale about the unnecessary disappointment of Middle Age. Cautionary, because the disappointment shouldn't be so complete, and wouldn't be for Peter Harris if he had a more evolved sense of what beauty really means. Sure, people get old, fail to achieve their dreams, and lose control over their lives... if you see it that way... or maybe they develop a patina, the character to keep struggling and changing, and the ability to embrace the messiness of family and friends as the beauty of a complete life.  Middle age is when you realize just how vulnerable you really are, so I empathize with Peter, but I think there's beauty in there as well.  Maybe he finds it in the end.

Kenny: The book was a reflection on a couple who do not communicate. It show how mentally distorted you become when you have lost touch with one another and your expectations from life. A good book. You will feel better about yourself and sad for the fictional people involved. You will say: "That's one screwed up midlife crisis."

Martin: An interesting read. I enjoyed getting to know the characters even though, at the time, I could not relate to what was happening in their lives.

Jody: Like his other book The Hours, this is beautifully written and engrossing. An uncomfortable read about a mid-life crisis and what cliches we can all become. How an encounter with just one person throws everything we know into question and can bring our whole lives close to collapse. Enjoyed also the insight into the world of an art dealer and how art had become for Peter a joyless and calculated sale.

Our next book is Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness by Alexandra Fuller, the story of an African childhood. Read along with us!


  1. Sounds intriguing. I could use a book that makes me feel a bit better about my own life. And it sounds like Peter's story could certainly do just that. I think my my blog may well be my way of coping with my mid-life crisis. And strangely, I still love and talk to my husband. So boring.

  2. I tried reading it, but it was too cringe-inducing.

  3. I'll skip this one, sounds too scary and close to home (or age) for me.

  4. The book seems to have provoked quite mixed reactions amongst the readers....

  5. I've been thinking about getting this book - glad to have read input from your book club. Very interesting.

    Hope you and your family have a very Merry Christmas!

  6. It's nice to hear about your book club, Jody. Various reviews are so helpful. Wishing you a Merry Christmas! May it be filled with laughter and joy and wonderful moments with your dear ones! xo

  7. I have a Liebster award for you over on my blog xx

  8. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the book! It sounds like an interesting read! Have a wonderful holiday! :)

  9. thanks for the recommendation! Will get it soon

    Merry Christmas! :)



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