The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox

3 November, 2010

I’ve been trying to be good and read one book at a time. However, with this monster of a hardback, it would really do no favours to my frozen shoulder to lug it around London every day. So it stays on my bedside table for me to read at night. Which means that sometime I forget to read it if I’m distracted by the internet or the telly. Hmm. There must be a better solution to this problem. However, The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox is SO GOOD that even if I let a few days slide by before picking up from where I left off, it doesn’t matter. I am continually impressed by the quality of his prose and the way he kept me hooked. There was a constant feeling of uneasiness and I have to admit I felt apprehensive throughout most of the novel. There’s something of the Victorian sensational novel about his writing which reminds me of the best of Dickens and Collins and I can’t stress enough how much I enjoyed the book. If only it was smaller, lighter and not in hardback, I’d have carried it everywhere with me.

The Meaning of Night is a tale of revenge between two schoolfriends who have taken differing paths in life because of an act of betrayal at Eton. Both boys are brilliant in different ways but one hides a malevolent nature that no one suspects. Subtitled A Confession, Cox’s novel is dark, full of secrets about families, birthrights, betrayal and revenge. And his prose is so smooth you won’t even notice it’s a hefty 600 pages long.

Edward Glyver is hellbent on revenge. His adversary is Phoebus Rainsford Daunt, treacherous schoolfriend, who seems to be touched by fate and goes on to a glittering literary career without even having to raise a sweat. Added to that he’s in line to be made heir to a great estate, an estate which seems to have some sort of connection with Glyver. Glyver, who left Eton prematurely and lost his chance to go to university spent many adventurous years travelling the world and gaining an informal education. As his fury grows, will he manage to trap Daunt? And to complicate the matter further, Glyver falls in love with Emily Carteret, a childhood friend whom Daunt is pursuing. There is something about the character of Edward Glyver, the protagonist, that you just can’t help identifying with and you keep hoping that things will turn out alright for him.

So many of you have said how much you loved this novel (especially Teresa of Shelf Love). And I agree totally. I have to say that Cox’s prose is beautiful and flows so smoothly I can hardly believe this was his first novel. It reminds me greatly of Charles Pallisser’s The Quincunx: The Inheritance of John Huffam which was reminiscent of Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White and Dickens’ Bleak House which, although over 1000 pages long, kept me and my friends enthralled in our early twenties. However there weren’t as many dastardly wicked villains in The Meaning of Night but more circumstances-of-fate events. It also reminded me a lot of The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber which I didn’t love so much. Partly because I couldn’t empathise with the main character Sugar. But I think I’m in the minority here.

As you can imagine, I cannot wait to read the loose sequel, The Glass of Time. I am only sad that Cox is no longer around to write more novels.

I read this for the Thriller and Suspense Challenge 2010 and just in time for the R.I.P. V Challenge.

* Forgot to add this is another one down for the TBR 2010 Challenge. Hurray!

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21 Responses to “The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox”

  1. amymckie Says:

    Oohhhh this book does sound really really interesting! Your review has me wanting to add it to my wish list!


  2. This sounds incredible! I am officially putting it on the list — it sounds haunting and Gothic, which I love!


  3. I loved this book too. I really should read The Glass of Time, but I don’t want to have read all of Cox’s books 😦

  4. Steph Says:

    This sounds like the perfect ereader book to me! Right now I’m reading Possession by A.S. Byatt which is similarly huge and am very glad that I don’t have to lug a huge 600 page book around with me! My husband is reading Freedom by Jonathan Franzen, which is similarly huge and he is always cursing its size, even when we’re just lying in bed.

    I’ve heard only great things about Michael Cox, so he’s definitely an author I’d like to try. Normally I am scared of big books, but it sounds like the writing and the story is so good, I won’t even be bothered by its length!

    • chasing bawa Says:

      I can’t imagine you being scared of big books, Steph! I love chunksters, but they are a nightmare to carry around. I’m sure my frozen shoulder is a result of having too heavy a bag.

  5. Helen Says:

    I loved this book – and I thought The Glass of Time was even better! It’s such a shame there won’t be any more books by Michael Cox. His writing really is beautiful and very ‘Victorian’. I noticed you also mentioned The Quincunx. I loved that one too, as well as Palliser’s other book, The Unburied.

  6. deslily Says:

    I’ve read both of Coxs books this one and the Glass of Time and both are excellent!!! I am glad to hear you enjoyed it also, and I am with you ..i am sad we won’t get new books from him anymore.

  7. nymeth Says:

    “There’s something of the Victorian sensational novel about his writing which reminds me of the best of Dickens and Collins.” Say no more 😛

  8. Teresa Says:

    Yay! I’m so glad to see you spreading the Michael Cox love. I adored this book (and you remind me that I want to read the Quincunx, which has been on my list for ages).

    I also wasn’t all that impressed with Crimson Petal, so you’re not alone. My issue was that it seemed to revel too much in the seediness–like the author was trying to hard to wave his “I’m not a repressed Victorian” banner. Pu-leeze.

    • chasing bawa Says:

      Exactly. I can’t erase the picture of Sugar or was it her friend’s grimy bed from my mind. I hear they may be making a film which I’m not averse to watching, though.

      I hope you enjoy The Quincunx as much as I did!

  9. Kristen M. Says:

    This and the Quincunx were the two main reasons that I was scared to read Fingersmith. When neo-Victorian is done well, it is absolutely unputdownable. Luckily, that ended up living up to the high quality of the others! I’m terribly sad that the world lost Michael Cox’s amazing talent so early.

  10. Eva Says:

    Oh! This sounds SO PERFECT for me. Especially in my current mood. Off to put a hold request in.

    Also, I did not like Crimson Petal. It felt ‘wanna be,’ and actually turned me off all historical Victorian fiction for a couple of years.

  11. Aarti Says:

    I loved this book when I read it! I have the sequel on my shelf, but haven’t picked it up at all. I hope I still remember the general storyline by the time I get around to it!


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