Jonathan Mirsky

What The Dark Is For

At Day's Close: A History of Nighttime


Weidenfeld & Nicolson 480pp £20 order from our bookshop

‘This book’, A Roger Ekirch declares straight away, ‘sets out to explore the history of nighttime in Western society before the advent of the Industrial Revolution.’ Night-time, he observes, ‘embodied a distinct culture with many of its own customs and rituals, very different from daily reality – a chance for men and women to express inner impulses and realize repressed desires, however innocent or sinister in nature’. I paused there to draw up a mental list of nocturnal deeds and events that would occur to many residents of London in 2005. In no particular order: sex (licit and illicit), dreams, dressing up, crime, work, fear, fantasy, drinking and eating, many of these varied by social class and money. This was the case, too, we learn here, in the period from the Middle Ages to the mid eighteenth century in the countries of Western Europe, and nowhere more so than in Britain.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Here's reviewing Rachel Kushner's novel about a woman caught in the injustice of the US prison system,… ,
    • 'Hart sets out to unsettle, startle and disturb. In this strange, disconcerting, radical version of a strange, disc… ,
    • Here is @MannJessica's June crime fiction round-up, discussing books by Georges Simenon, Jack Grimwood,… ,
    • John Stubbs reviews Stephen Greenblatt's latest, 'Tyrant: Shakespeare on Power' ,
    • RT : What happened when US military strategist Herman Kahn - one of Kubrick’s three models for Dr Strangelove - took LSD… ,
    • 'Pollan has no doubt that the use of psychedelics could have a powerfully beneficial effect on a range of condition… ,
    • A memoir about an Untouchable family and the 'formation of modern India': 'Ants among Elephants' by @gidla_sujatha… ,