Bibliophile | ‘The Hours’ author Michael Cunningham returns with ‘Day’

By Michael Cunningham
4th Estate

Best known for his 1999 Pulitzer Prize winning book The Hours, Michael Cunningham likes to delve into the depths of human experiences, emotional turmoil, sexuality and sexual identities.

Like The Hours, the novel is divided into three acts. Day takes place in the morning of 5 April, 2019; the afternoon of 5 April, 2020; and the evening of 5 April 2021. Two years with a pandemic sandwiched between, when not everyone will survive, allows time for reflection, puts strain on relationships and sheds a different light on pre-pandemic angst.

There is Isabel and Dan who live in a cramped Brooklyn row house with their children Nathan and Violet, and their 30-something disappointments. There is also Isabel’s gay brother Robbie who lives in the attic but is looking to move out even though he loves Isabel and Dan and the kids.

Photo editor for an up-market magazine that is soon to become extinct, Isabel is distressed that her 5 year-old daughter can recognise that she is faking it as a mother. All the while, house husband Dan continues to chase his “sweetly delusional” comeback as a rock star even though he wasn’t a success in the first place.

Then there is Dan’s younger brother Garth, a sculptor, who surprised everyone by agreeing to be a sperm donor for his lesbian college friend Chess. Baby Odin is very much part of the story as he links Garth and Chess who have differing ideas of how they should be linked.

One of the most interesting characters is Wolfe, a 30-something pediatrician who, after having a few boyfriends that didn’t work out, is now waiting to fall in love but is in no hurry. But Wolfe, who has 3,407 followers on Instagram, is actually Robbie’s fictional creation.

Cunningham meanders through his characters’ thoughts and observes the small details of their lives because the characters are a means for him to explore the endless possibilities of love and how it can morph over time.

Lezly Herbert

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