Sunday, May 11, 2014

Review - By Nightfall by: Michael Cunningham

Title: By Nightfall
Author: Michael Cunningham
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Pages: 238
Format: Paperback
Source: Turkish translation received from publisher


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 thefamily 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:

My first meeting with Michael Cunningham was with The Hours; I loved both the book and the movie. I've been wanting to read the rest of his books ever since, and when I found out they were translated into Turkish by a publisher I'm cooperating with, I couldn't miss the chance. By Nightfall's main characters are a middle-aged couple: Peter and Rebecca Harris. When viewed from the outside, they have a lifestyle that everyone would want. Within themselves, they're not too bad either; just going through things that I'm guessing middle-aged couple all go through. They don't really have any "real" problems. Except for Rebecca's 23-year-old brother "Mizzy," of course...

When Mizzy, aka Ethan, comes to stay with the couple, things start going down. Mizzy is handsome, attractive, not to be trusted, a previous drug addict and a college dropout. Upon his arrival, Peter starts to question his life and the meaning of life itself. 

Michael Cunningham's story-telling is a bit similar to Alice Munro's. He throws things in our face: the details of routine things we don't even think about, things we think about but wouldn't say out loud even if someone held a gun to our heads. These alone make him worth reading, really.
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