Peter Stamm’s All Days Are Night opens with TV host Gillian in the hospital, disfigured after a car crash. Her husband, the drunk behind the wheel, was killed. But really, this book isn’t as depressing as it sounds.
Unlike other blockbuster books which feature a character with a disfigured face, John Darnielle’s Wolf in White Van or Invisible Monsters by Chuck Pahalniuk, this isn’t a book about looking different. This is a book about how life goes on, about how the clock ticks past moments both brilliant and brutal.
What seems to be a story of Gillian’s struggle to recover dramatically shifts halfway through, to focus on an artist known for his paintings of nude housewives. As his life interweaves with Gillian’s several powerful times, this shift saves the book from an unbearable overexposure of one woman’s struggle.
All Days Are Night morphs into a love story, a falling-out-of-love story, with steamy sex and moments of crazed artistic frustration. The title quote, despite its dismal insinuation, comes from Shakespeare’s Love Sonnet 43:“All days are nights to see till I see thee,/And nights bright days when dreams do show thee me.”
Stamm writes with little indication of change—conversations or shifts in scene blur in his writing as they do in life, time moving on unceremoniously. Stamm’s prose needs no formatting, as it cuts clearly to the big questions. He looks to what defines us, and what drives us, when we think we can’t go on.