Posted by: Jeanie F | October 18, 2010

By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham

Before I begin, I should probably make it clear that I’m a Michael Cunningham fan. I loved The Hours and A Home at the End of the World, so I looked forward to the release of By Nightfall. In fact, I ordered it as soon an it became available on Kindle and could hardly wait to begin reading it. That said, upon completing it this weekend, I was going to write a review until I discovered that Ron Charles of The Washington Post has done a far better job on his video review than I could ever hope to do.

Most of the reviews of this novel have waxed eloquent about middle-aged angst, the search for meaning and/or beauty, the complexity of relationships – blah, blah, blah. It’s true that Cunningham demonstrates his usual evocative images and insightful internal dialogues, but the problem is that so little actually happens. The protagonist, Peter’s, marriage is unsatisfying, his art gallery is “second tier,” the artists he represents are difficult and demanding . . . With his caustic review, Charles seems to be the only one who was as impatient as I was for Peter to get over himself and quit whining. I, for one, had no trouble understanding why his grown daughter couldn’t stand him. 

Do yourself a favor and watch Ron Charles’s video – it’s immensely more entertaining than this frustrating and disappointing book.

Grade: D


  1. Oh, dear, I bought this one not long ago…I enjoyed two other books by this author.

  2. Lots of the reviewers loved it – it might just be me. I’ll be curious to hear what you think after you read it (I’ll admit, it held my interest all the way through – just left me wondering “So what?”).

  3. What a shame. I haven’t read any of this author but I will make sure I don’t start with this book

  4. I’d start with The Hours, which I thought was great.

  5. I like the way you grade the book and put the grade in an inauspicious place, so it doesn’t detract from the blog entry. I’m considering doing something similar. If the grade is too prominently displayed, people would only look at the grade and leave.

  6. Oh no! 😦

    I loved The Hours, and enjoyed Specimen Days. Was really looking forward to this book, and now – now, I don’t know! I’m really sorry you didn’t like it, despite loving both, The Hours and A Home At The End Of The World.

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