- Paperback: 480 pages
- Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; New Ed edition (October 17, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0393329011
- ISBN-13: 978-0393329018
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 119 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #228,723 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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At Day's Close: Night in Times Past Paperback – October 17, 2006
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“An enthralling anthropology of the shadow realms.”
- John Leonard, Harper's
“Absorbing…fascinating…[Ekirch] has plundered an extraordinary range of cross-cultural sources for his material, and he tells us about everything from witches to firefighting, architecture to domestic violence…[A] monumental study.”
- Terry Eagleton, The Nation
“This is an irresistibly fascinating book. It has a hypnotic, feverish pace that will have its readers up all night wondering, expectant.”
- Ken Burns
“Perfect reading for insomniacs and star-gazers alike.”
- Jonathan Spence, Sterling Professor of History, Yale University
“An absorbing social history…A wonderful revelation of a vanished age of darkness.”
- Raymond Carr, The Spectator
“Engrossing…Ekirch's narrative is rooted in the material realities of the past, evoking a bygone world of extreme physicality and pre-industrial survival stratagems.”
- Publishers Weekly
About the Author
A. Roger Ekirch is a professor of history at Virginia Tech and the award-winning author of At Day’s Close, Birthright, and American Sanctuary. He lives in Roanoke, Virginia.
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"Rather than falling, night, to the watchful eye, rises. Emerging first in the valleys, shadows slowly ascend sloping hillsides. Fading rays known as "sunsuckers" dart upward behind clouds as if being inhaled for another day. While pastures and woodlands are lost to gloom, the western sky remains aglow even as the sun draws low beneath the horizon."
And it only gets better!
Beautiful and poetic, at least so says I. Reminds me of Barbara Tuchman's writing. In particular her book, A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous Fourteenth Century, And If you order At Day's Close and like it as much as I do, I'm sure you'll like hers as well.
The past that Mr. Ekirch presents is absolutely fascinating, strange, and heretofore unknown to me. I don't mean to come down hard on those who might disagree, but I'm very concerned that others might skip this offering, and I hate to think of anyone missing out on it. I've certainly encountered many books written by college professors about subjects I thought would be enjoyable to read about, but their writing sometimes has been daunting. I remember an essay (I've forgotten it's title) Flannery O'Connor wrote about her experience addressing a symposium in some Ivy League institution back East about Southern Fiction. After being asked a number of convoluted, deconstructionist type questions by faculty members, she stopped her speech and shaking her head said, "You know, sometimes you academics strain the soup a bit thin for my taste." So when I read the complaints about Professor Ekirch's prose, I admit I felt a little reluctant to order the book. I worried that I'd be, once again, wasting my money and time. Please don't worry about that. At Day's Close is an absolute delight.
Daddy says: "You'll love it. Buy it."
What makes it so fun is just how SURPRISING these facts turn out to be. Like how hard it was to get a candle in the early days. I mean, did you know some ducks can burn as a candle? Or the evolution of technology of gaslights, of which I foolishly believed were all kind of the same. By the time electricity showed up they were considered to be actually TOO bright, with eyeball searingly luminescent coal gas lighting the streets from end to end.
I've really never read any book on any topic that gave me such a feeling that I really had no idea just how differently people lived in different eras. Perhaps because the one thing I assumed we all pretty much had in common, sleep, contained more historical variation than I ever imagined.
An excitingly fun book, even if it did make me fall asleep constantly...
"At Day's Close" details what living with darkness was like in the early modern era, though the author does hop back a bit further on occasion and forward a bit when necessary. The research required to build this work was enormous. I can only imagine how much effort it took to find references to the night in documents of that era. Well done, Mr. Ekirch!
Overall this is an engaging work. Given that there is no one protagonist, other than night itself, there isn't a very smooth narrative flow. I suppose part of that is due to the source material and the way it is spread over a few centuries. With the exception of Samuel Pepys' diaries, there is no one consistent "voice" though many voices speak.
Despite the somewhat uneven nature of his prose, the author does a fine job getting across the many ways darkness affected human lives. He, wisely I think, has managed to divide night's many facets into manageable, more or less discrete subjects allowing him to tease apart the whole.
If you are interested in what night once was now that it is buried under a sea of artificial light you will enjoy this work.
If you like knowing about the details of peoples lives from other times and places, this book will STICK. You'll find yourself thinking about it days weeks and months later- each time you look up at the night sky.