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Editorial Reviews

In By Nightfall, author Michael Cunningham — best known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Hours — tells the story of a few days in the life of Peter Harris, a New York art dealer with a decades-long marriage to Rebecca; an emotionally and geographically distant daughter; and a habit of falling, as he puts it, “in love with beauty”. The novel, performed by English actor Hugh Dancy, is packed with the gorgeous prose and thoughtful details that are classic Cunningham — and Dancy’s flawless narration is well-paced, emotional, and genuine.
Rebecca’s brother — an “oops” baby named Ethan but known as Mizzy (short for “the Mistake”) — is the golden child of the family, despite years of drug abuse and repeated, failed attempts to live up to the standards his family sets for him. And when he comes to stay with Peter and Rebecca, he’s also the catalyst for Peter’s re-examining of his entire life, from his first crush on an older girl to his relationship with his late brother. Cunningham nails every detail — the small moments between Rebecca and Peter, the fears and insecurities Peter has about his own past, the tiny domestic routines that make up a life — and Dancy hits every note: His narration moves effortlessly from Peter’s stream-of-consciousness internal monologue to interactions with other characters without a trace of his own English accent, and he adds a hint of Southern drawl to Mizzy and Rebecca (who grew up below the Mason-Dixon line). A cast of supporting characters — including egocentric artists, rich collectors, and fellow dealers — gets the same meticulous treatment. Cunningham and Dancy both worked on the movie Evening (alongside Dancy’s wife, Claire Danes, who reportedly asked Cunningham to officiate the couple’s private wedding ceremony in 2009) and their collaboration here is poignant and powerful. —Blythe Copeland
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Publisher's Summary

Peter and Rebecca Harris: mid-40s 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 23-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.
©2010 Mare Vaporum Corp. (P)2010 Macmillan Audio
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Critic Reviews

"[A]n exquisite, slyly witty, warmly philosophical, and urbanely eviscerating tale of the mysteries of beauty and desire, art and delusion, age and love." ( Booklist)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By James on 11-13-10

Beauty is truth? Is that all we need to know?

This beautifully-written story of an art dealer's mid-life, mid-career, mid-marriage crisis is, as we have come to expect in Michael Cunningham's fiction, rich in allusions, but, except for the big urn protagonist Peter Harris sells to his favorite client, I don't recall any mention of John Keats. But I kept thinking of the poet's tragic paradox by Peter's impossible attempt to find, in the ineffable beauty of sculpture and of a dangerous lover, an experience of the infinite he well knows is at odds with the temporary pleasures and pains of real life. Along the way, although far shorter than Jonathan Franzen's recent blockbuster, By Nightfall similarly makes us wonder if freedom is all it's cracked up to be.

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5 of 5 people found this review helpful

2 out of 5 stars
By Dennis on 11-03-10

Tedious, Self-absorbed, and Pretentious

Michael Cunningham takes us into the mind of Peter Harris, an New York art dealer who muses over every little detail of his boring life. One wants to shout at the narrator, "Get on with it, already." However, it is not his fault, he's only reading the mind of a man who regales us with every little detail of every little incident in his life and believes that we care. The story has more asides than a Shakespearean play that add little to the plot and do not further the cause of story telling. There is no plot, only subplots, and in the end, nothing is resolved.

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10 of 12 people found this review helpful

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