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The Meaning of Night: A Confession Hardcover – 2006

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Product Details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton (2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393062031
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393062038
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 3.6 x 24.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 975 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #451,697 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Kelly Rossiter on Jan. 11 2007
Format: Hardcover
Author Michael Cox apparently took some 30 years to write this novel The Meaning of Night. Weighing in at 600 pages, it may take you almost that long to read it. Mr. Cox is the editor of The Oxford Book of Victorian Detective Stories and clearly knows the writing style of the period intimately. I have read a lot of 19th century literature and if I hadn't known that this was a modern book, the author would have had me fooled. It has all the requisite characters - the young man cheated out of his inheritance, the saintly mother, the kindly benefactor, the beguiling prostitute, the evil enemy, the beautiful chaste young lady, the mysterious deceased Lady of the manor, even the rotund housekeeper and the weeping maid. Mr. Cox has not only captured the voice of the time, he gives the novel the kind of pacing of a Victorian detective fiction, doling out bits of forshadowing information and plot twists, although none that weren't apparent to me. The novel touches on many things common to Victorian books: the notion of honour, loyalty, blood, true love all seen through the lens of the social mores of the time. Readers of modern novels may find it wordy, but if you are a fan of authors such as Wilkie Collins then you have a good read ahead of you. So sit in your wingback chair in front of the fire with your companion next to you working her embroidery, ring for the butler to bring your tea (or perhaps a very little whisky) and open the pages of the novel and let Mr. Cox work his magic.

For movie lovers - you might want to try Kind Hearts and Coronets (19490 starring Alec Guiness and Dennis Price which covers a lot of the same territory but with a lot more humour.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Gail Cooke TOP 50 REVIEWER on Oct. 5 2006
Format: Hardcover
"After killing the red-haired man, I took myself off to Quinn's for an oyster supper."

Who could stop reading after such an opening sentence? Cox's monumental novel is subtitled "A Confession," could it be that is taken care of on page 1? Not quite. "The Meaning Of Night" is a labyrinthian journey through mid 19th century England, from the dank brothel lined streets of London to the elegance of Evenwood, a luxurious country home. The story is told ala Dickens, rich with Victorian language and copious footnotes.

Our narrator is Edward Glyver who well remembers that the first word he ever heard used to describe him was "resourceful." He is that and more. As a youngster he was the victim of a plot executed by Phoebus Rainsford Daunt, a fellow schoolboy. Edward was dismissed and sent home. However, we're reminded that "revenge has a long memory;" in this case, some two decades.

As the tale evolves, both Edward and Phoebus are rivals again. Following the death of Edward's mother he has reason to believe that his parentage is not what he thought it to be. Lord Tansor, master of Evenwood, is childless and has yet to choose an heir. Could that heir be Edward? This is a prize that Phoebus also pursues - not with honor we might add as he's both poet and shyster.

Lord Tansor's cousin, the mysterious and beautiful Emily Carteret, is also a prize that both men would win.

"The Meaning of Night" is a weighty read (700 pages) and a virtuoso accomplishment by the author. Those who appreciate Victorian thrillers will find pleasure in every sentence.

Highly recommended.

- Gail Cooke
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Format: Paperback
Wow! On every level this is an impressive first novel. It works extremely well for three reasons. First, it is an intricate and detailed mystery reminiscent of the writings from the mid 18th century when it takes place. Second, the main character's motivations are laid bare as the novel progresses in a clever, subtle manner. And lastly, the various sources of information that propel the story give it more credibility - diaries, affidavits, recollections add to the texture. I recognize that many have criticized the book for being too long and drawing out a resolution. But when you look at the bestseller lists, we fiction readers have largely been trained to expect books to be roughly 325 pages. In the case of The Meaning of Night, I found that patience is rewarded.

The novel flows at varied paces which adds to the entertainment. It is also varied as equal parts mystery, confession, and unrequited romance. The writing is both fluid and dense, I love his ongoing description of London as "the Great Leviathan, the never-sleeping monster in whose expanding coils I now dwelled." Another example is the author's Dickens-like description of one character, "You instantly saw a natural disposition towards goodness, his roundness seeming appropriately indicative of a corresponding completeness of character: that enviable, unaffected integration of feeling and temperament in which there is excess neither of preening self-regard nor impatience with the failings of others." And as good reading should provide, I learned new words and appreciated the author's use of translated Latin phrases.

Yet it is Edward Glyver's curious pursuit of Phoebus Daunt that intrigues. Is Daunt a true Moriarty? Or has Glyver found a clever excuse for his life's trials and tribulations? I invite you to find out - put on a fire, steep a tea or pour a scotch and settle into a tale not to be rushed.
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