FICTION

Day for Night

ECW. May 2021. 300p. ISBN 9781770415751. pap. $14.95. F
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Taking its title from the 1973 film by François Truffaut, this new novel from award winner McNeil (Ice Diaries)—like Truffaut’s Day for Night—chronicles the making of a film. Richard Cottar is a middle-aged British director of art house films; he’s married to Joanna, a successful producer. Approaching 50, he feels compelled to make a film about the German Jewish intellectual and writer Walter Benjamin, who took his own life in Spain in 1940 while fleeing the Nazis. During casting, Richard finds himself taken with (professionally and otherwise) the charismatic, sexually fluid Elliot, a young actor recommended for the role of Benjamin; their growing relationship soon drives his marriage to the breaking point. When Richard suddenly dies at his 50th birthday party, Joanna decides to finish his film. She soon forms her own relationship with Elliot as the pair travel across Europe while filming.
VERDICT Set in 2018, on the eve of Brexit, the novel offers a play of light and dark figures as it moves from the art of filmmaking to Benjamin’s sense of stateless and impending doom, which finds an echo in Richard and Joanna’s foreboding about their marriage and the consequences of Brexit. A captivating mix of angst and wry humor.
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