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