Spring has sprung in eastern Australia - a time I love because of the relief it brings from winter dreariness but a time I hate because it brings on my annual bout of hay fever and allergies which seems to go on and on and on... I typically lack all energy and enthusiasm during this time - even blogging has been a real effort unfortunately - and going outside is a dangerous activity so I have been diving into my reading as a way of comfort and escape - and thankfully finding some great books in the process.
By Nightfall, the new book by Michael Cunningham , has been one of those finds. I first discovered Cunningham through his amazing book The Hours earlier this year so I feel very blessed to be able to read a new work of his so soon after falling in literary love.
By Nightfall tells the story of Peter Harris, a middle-aged art dealer living in New York with his wife, Rebecca. For all intense purposes Peter's life appears to be travelling along quite well as the story begins, he certainly isn't as huge a player in the art world as he might like to be but he is making a comfortable living and enjoying a fairly up market lifestyle. His relationship with Rebecca may be lacking some spark after the twenty odd years they have been together but they have a comfortableness about them that seems safe and pleasantly happy - if occasionally resigned.
The story of Peter and Rebecca's present day life is interwoven with stories and reflections of their childhood and family life - all told from the perspective and focus of Peter. Peter is clearly smitten with Rebecca's bohemian and slightly eccentric upbringing - as compared with his dull, ritualised suburban childhood and he admits at one point that in marrying Rebecca he was in turn taking on her family - an act he wasn't at all unhappy about.
It is Rebecca's younger brother, Ethan, who come along to play a larger part in Peter's story. Ethan (or Mizzy as he is known - short for "mistake" - alluding to the fact that he was conceived 20 years after the then youngest child of the family had been born) has just returned from a soul-searching trip to Japan after his latest attempt to join middle class society had failed. It seems that in line with his name, Mizzy is constantly making mistakes (according to others) in terms of his life choices and unlike his siblings he has become trapped in a world of drug abuse and addiction and we learn that it isn't really a world that he wants to escape from - despite the protestations of his sisters and Peter.
It is through Mizzy's story and his actions that Peter starts to see his own life choices and plans reflected - and it is then that things start to take a turn - for better or worse??
I can't say that I fell in love with By Nightfall in the same way that I did with The Hours - but then, that was a very special and rare thing and it shouldn't take anything away from Cunningham's latest book which is a fantastically told story.