You may recall how I was bowled over by Michael Cox’s The Meaning of Night last year. For a Victorian sensation novel written by a contemporary writer, it was extremely accomplished, thrilling and kept me awake at night. I immediately went and searched for its sequel The Glass of Time but books kept getting in the way and it isn’t until now that I’ve finished reading it. I regret not reading it sooner when I was still immersed in the gothicky, secretive world of Evenwood and the characters attached to that great estate, because I had forgotten most of the intricate plot. But as I kept reading The Glass of Time, bits of the plot came flying back and by the end I knew EVERYTHING.

As with all Victorian sensation novels in the vein of Dickens and Collins, there are layers and layers of secrets, dodgy lawyers, honest policemen and cabbies and the innocent and not-so-innocent staff. Unlike the original Victorian novels, Cox’s has been cleverly edited so that you don’t have pages and pages of descriptive prose, and the pace is incredibly fast. Thrilling indeed.

The Meaning of Night was about the enmity of two men, Edward Glyver and Phoebus Rainsford Daunt, who had known each other at Eton and lived parallel lives, one charmed and the other twisted with vengeance. At the heart of their tale was the estate of Lord Tansor and his beautiful house Evenwood, a lost inheritance and the love of Emily Carteret. The Glass of Time picks up the story 20 years later with the arrival of Esperanza Gorst at Evenwood to take up the position of lady’s maid to Lady Tansor. Brought up an orphan by her parents’ friend Madame Orme and her tutor Mr. Thornhaugh, Esperanza is here to inveigle her way into Lady Tansor’s favour in order to uncover the secrets that have lain hidden these past 20 years and to right the wrong that had been done all those years ago. Who is she? And will she achieve the plans that have been set out for her? And, more importantly, will she be found out?

In the process she gets to know Lady Tansors two sons, Perseus and Randolph, the unfriendly housekeeper Mrs. Battersby and two lawyers, Mr. Montagu Wraxall and the very sinister Mr. Armitage Vyse.

What can I say but to urge you to read both of these books. And in quick succession too. Don’t do what I did and leave too much time in between. I want to write more of the plot but I don’t want to give any secrets away. Suffice it to say that Cox is a brilliant writer whose prose is vivid and sumptuous and just what you need when you want to sink into a good, meaty tale. There are twists and turns, secret letters and hidden drawers, and lots and lots of guilt. And of course a love story. Because in the end, all stories are about love.

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!