In this atmospheric, suspenseful novel, an American couple travels to a strange, snowy European city to adopt a baby, who they hope will resurrect their failing marriage. Their difficult journey leaves the wife, who is struggling with cancer, desperately weak, and her husband worries that her obvious fragility will prevent the orphanage from releasing their child.
The couple check into the cavernous and eerily deserted Borgarfjaroasysla Grand Imperial Hotel where the bar is always open, the restaurant serves thirteen-course dinners from centuries past, and the doors of the guest rooms have been salvaged from demolished opera houses. Their attempt to claim their baby is both helped and hampered by the people they encounter: an ancient, flamboyant chanteuse, a debauched businessman, an enigmatic faith healer, and a stoic of a bartender who dispenses an addictive, lichen-flavoured schnapps. Nothing is as it seems in this mysterious, frozen world, and the longer the couple endure the punishing cold the less they seem to know about their marriage, themselves, and life itself.
“Peter Cameron’s What Happens at Night is a surreal, funny, heartbreaking story about love and mortality. Cameron’s sense of balance between the comic and the catastrophic, between cynicism and sincerity, is astonishing. This book reminds me of nothing else I’ve ever read, which is high praise indeed.”
—Michael Cunningham, author of The Hours and The Snow Queen
“The prose in What Happens at Night is faultlessly elegant and quietly menacing, like a tuxedo lined with knives. I can’t think of another book at once so beautiful and so unnerving, so poised between miracle and disaster. Peter Cameron is one of America’s greatest writers, the living stylist I most revere.”
—Garth Greenwell, author of What Belongs to You and Cleanness
“A virtuosic tale that is by turns terrifying, comic, and heartbreaking. We do not always know whether we are in the realm of the real or the hallucinatory in this thrillingly mysterious and gorgeously written novel. What is never in doubt is that we are in the hands of a ravishing stylist and a supremely gifted storyteller.”
—Sigrid Nunez, author of The Friend
“What Happens at Night retools the Victorian ghost story . . . The novel’s indeterminacy is both intriguing and moving, because it means that one character’s loss is another’s consummation, and an unbroken night is both a source of terror and the condition of a long-desired resting place.”
— The Wall Street Journal
Peter Cameron is the author of several novels, including Andorra, The Weekend, and Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You. His short fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Rolling Stone, and many other literary journals. Merchant Ivory made a film based on his novel The City of Your Final Destination and James Ivory is presently adapting his novel Coral Glynn for the screen. He lives in New York City and Vermont.