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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

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)

What listeners say about By Nightfall

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

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.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

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.

11 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Almost is good enough

Any additional comments?

Hugh Dancy does a really good job narrating. That’s probably my favorite part of the audiobook (it took a while for it to dawn on me that he was using his American accent rather than his own natural British one...would it be reading too much meaning in that given the story? ha). I see a lot of confused reviewers on this page. No, people in the art world are not the same as the rest of us in terms of how they engage life. I think that might be why it’s not landing for some of you. And this is a story without heroes, really. People who live for beauty on the surface and live in fear for their fading lives and disappointments beneath it.

Honestly I’m not sure I can speak with authority much beyond that right now. Although the writer is obviously very talented, this novel does strike me as undisciplined as the lead character goes in neurotic circles worrying things into the ground that aren’t maybe all that interesting. There are like four or five subjects we hear about over and over again where nothing new is said, just said in a mildly different way. Mizzie. The daughter. Fading youth. I liked hearing about those things, but it seems like the writer was maybe trying to cloud some of the other characters motivations so that we didn’t see the twists coming.

Maybe I’m wrong. I am VERY glad I read the book though. I feel like I learned a lot of about the NYC art scene and the people who populate it. Flavors, colors, textures, etc. Honestly that’s why I read it. Kind of like research, I guess. Curiosity. I LOVE that the book concerned itself so much with art and how people in the art world, how art applies in their practical lives. Other than that, the story takes on hues of American Beauty and Lolita, which works. And it serves to give the author’s musings direction. But yeah. Could have been a little more merciful in the repetition. Density. It felt dense in places.

For those who are frustrated about why characters don’t ask obvious questions, that’s the point. They’re avoiding those questions. Don’t want to face certain truths. That’s what the ending seems to be about, getting the stomach to tell the truth. Reveal oneself rather than be so encumbered by a mask. I’m making it sound cheap. It’s better in the book.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

Poor book. Whiney characters.

Loved " The Hours". Hated this. Overwritten annoying characters that I was hoping would get hit by a bus. Very dissappointing

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

true to form

Astonishing.
Cunningham does it again. His vision for the tiny heartbreaking meaningful details of like is just astonishing. Just like The Hours I am sure I will listen to this over and over.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Loved it

I only bought this book because I am obsessed with Hugh Dancy BUT I LOVED IT! And my vocabulary has expanded by at least 50 words!! Interesting and complex feelings, flowed wonderfully! Definitely will look for more books from Michael Cunningham

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Good narration, thin story

Great narrator. Story line was thin and predictable. Needed more backstory on the intimacy and aftermath

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    5 out of 5 stars
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came for Hugh Dancy stayed for the story

the title Explains It All seriously came here to hear Hugh Dancy Talk Dirty but stay for the story it was good

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Here for Hugh, surprised by some of the depth

I have issues with it for sure, mainly the fact that the love interest is referred to as a shortened version of 'Mistake' the entire novel made it feel like a fake infatuation of it all. the age gap felt gross and I saw the ending miles away, and I did not sympathize with most of the characters' first-world problems. an amazing performance if not much else.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Enjoyed It

Definitely an adult read, but not in the sense that it’s R-Rated, it’s an adult read as both the main characters, the husband and wife are at a transition in their lives. Neither one fully satisfied with the life their leading and have used her younger brother as a crutch. If you enjoy this sort of thing, this is the read. Not at all smutty as Tumblr portrayed it.