VSL// The new novel from the writer of The Hours

Peter and Rebecca Harris, the main characters at the heart of Michael Cunningham’s new novel, By Nightfall (available 9/28), seem to lead a rather charmed life: good looks, flourishing careers in the arts and a big loft in Soho. But—as Cunningham explores in this beautifully written novel —that doesn’t necessarily guarantee contentment.

Peter, an art dealer, finds himself feeling “a small sense of disappointment, a hint of actual defeat” while reflecting on his life at age 44. And that’s before the arrival of Rebecca’s 23-year-old brother, Ethan (nicknamed “Mizzy,” for “mistake”). Mizzy, a dazzlingly handsome former drug addict, reminds Peter (confusingly) of his wife in her youth, and also makes him reconsider his relationship to beauty itself. Cunningham manages to perfectly capture post-9/11 New York City, with keen observations about anxiety, fidelity, aging, the art world and the somewhat impossible pursuit of what we think of as happiness.

This post is from Observer Short List—an email of three favorite things from people you want to know. Sign up to receive OSL here. VSL// The new novel from the writer of The Hours