Tag Archives: marriage

By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham (2010)

“Decent people doing their best to live decent lives, there’s nothing really to hate them for, they do their jobs and maintain their property and love their children (most of the time); they take family vacations and visit relatives and decorate their houses for the holidays, collect some things and save up for other things; they’re good people (most of them, most of the time), but if you were me, if you were young Peter Harris, you felt the modesty of it eroding you, depopulating you, all those little satisfactions and no big , dangerous ones; no heroism, no genius, no terrible yearning for anything you can’t at least in theory actually have.” (p. 47)

The jacket says By Nightfall is “heartbreaking look at the way we live now.” Cunningham paints a portrait of contemporary life through Peter and Rebecca Harris that is desolate, lonely, haunting and full of mourning for the things we want but cannot have and the things we have but don’t want anymore. It reminded me of Freedom by Jonathan Franzen and Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates in its exploration of marriage, longing and expectation.

More memorable quotes:

“…he can’t stop himself from mourning some lost world, he couldn’t say which world exactly but someplace that isn’t this…” (p. 22)

“…we don’t care about Emma Bovary or Anna Karenina or Raskolnikov because they’re good. We care about them because they’re not admirable, because they’re us, and because great writers have forgiven them for it.” (p. 119)

“I’m just a child who’s learned to impersonate an adult.” (p. 214)


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Freedom by Jonathan Franzen (2010)


I found it difficult to get into this book. The first half was long and slow and the characters weren’t incredibly likable. However, as Franzen peeled back the layers on the complex relationships in this novel, it became easier to identify with his characters motives and mistakes. Walter, Patty, Richard and Joey are struggling to figure out what being true to themselves will cost them and whether that freedom is worth the cost.

There is a lot going on in Freedom. It’s at once a portrait of marriage, lust, betrayal, duty, friendship, depression, politics, economics, and love. Competition and freedom are central themes to this novel, and Franzen repeatedly challenges the reader to ponder: What does freedom look like? Do we find it in another person? In being true to ourselves? In letting go of our mistakes? In letting go of the mistakes others have made that have causes us harm? Despite the rough start, I think this is a book that will stay with me for longer than I would have imagined.

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