Day by Michael Cunningham - review by Richard Canning

Richard Canning

Only Disconnect

Day

By

Fourth Estate 288pp £16.99 order from our bookshop
 

Day is a curiosity: a deeply literary novel which does not neatly fit inside any existing box but does not mark out a new direction for fiction either. Ambitious, on occasions inspiring, it stands as kin to Cunningham’s By Nightfall (2011), sharing its dual concerns: the prospects for those who, in midlife, can no longer count on good looks or luck to propel them forward, and the complex interplay between male–male affection and rampant desire.

Set across three different days, 5 April 2019, 2020 and 2021, the novel embraces the arrival of Covid-19 and the particular ways it strikes three inhabitants of Brooklyn and their friends, relatives and dependants. In Cunningham’s account, the coercive measures enacted by the authorities don’t so much reconfigure people’s daily lives or dispositions as subtly underline or enhance existing traits. Handsome forty-something Dan, an eternally aspiring rock’n’roller, remains a doting parent to ten-year-old Nathan and five-year-old Violet, yet also a figure increasingly distant from his wife, Isabel, whose career in photographic journalism has peaked.

Her younger brother, Robbie, is the person to whom Isabel is closest. He lives in the flat upstairs (Isabel and Dan co-own the block), though the growth of their family means he has agreed to move out. At thirty-seven, Robbie, a primary school teacher who turned down offers of places

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