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Thursday, January 22, 2009

6. The Meaning of Night: A Confession by Michael Cox



Title: The Meaning of Night
Author: Michael Cox
Copyright: 2006
Pages: 608
ISBN: 9780393062038
Publisher: W.W. Norton & Co
Twitter: @wwnorton
Format: Audiobook
Rating: 2/5 stars
Finished: 1-23-09
Challenge: 75 Books 09

From Amazon:
The atmosphere of Bleak House, the sensuous thrill of Perfume, and the mystery of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell all combine in a story of murder, deceit, love, and revenge in Victorian England.

"After killing the red-haired man, I took myself off to Quinn's for an oyster supper." So begins the "enthralling" (Booklist, starred review) and "ingenious" (Boston Globe) story of Edward Glyver, booklover, scholar, and murderer. As a young boy, Glyver always believed he was destined for greatness. A chance discovery convinces him that he was right: greatness does await him, along with immense wealth and influence. Overwhelmed by his discovery, he will stop at nothing to win back a prize that he knows is rightfully his.

Glyver's path to reclaim his prize leads him from the depths of Victorian London, with its foggy streets, brothels, and opium dens, to Evenwood, one of England's most beautiful and enchanting country houses, and finally to a consuming love for the beautiful but enigmatic Emily Carteret. His is a story of betrayal and treachery, of death and delusion, of ruthless obsession and ambition. And at every turn, driving Glyver irresistibly onward, is his deadly rival: the poet-criminal Phoebus Rainsford Daunt.

The Meaning of Night is an enthralling novel that will captivate readers right up to its final thrilling revelation.

Don't judge this book by it's cover, as I picked it up simply on how great the cover looked. This is a very ambitious book, but one that could have benefited from some aggressive editing. Told from the first person perspective of Edward Glyver, a rather unreliable narrator, we follow the life history of Glyver in his pursuit of the murder of Phoebus Daunt, who, according to Glyver, is the reason for every problem that has befallen him in his life. The story opens with Glyver murdering a random passerby, just to make sure that he is capable of the act, in preparation for the murder of Daunt. A rather intriguing opening.

What follows, however, is an amazingly detailed and sprawling history of not only Glyver's life, but that of Daunt and any other character who plays any part of strength in the story. These histories eventually begin to drag out longer and longer until I found myself caring not at all about any character in the story. Glyver becomes nothing more than a whining and unsympathetic caracature of himself. Within chapters of the end of the book, I was simply listening to the book to get to the end. I even found myself having forgotten what the point of the story was, Glyver's compulsion to murder Daunt.

The book becomes so bogged down in its own story and history that it looses all aspects of mystery or tension. I'm glad that I listened to it on audiobook, as Glyver's self-pitying rambling becomes so tedious, that had I been reading the book, I would have given up on it long, long ago. The best part of the audiobook is the narrator, David Timson, who enriches the character to a palpable level.

I give the book 2.5 stars only because it is obvious that Cox researched the time period extensively, almost to a fault. I think if he had focused more on Glyver's hatred of Daunt instead of going into extensive detail on every aspect of Glyver's life that seems to have been wronged by Daunt, the book would have moved much quicker. I would like to read something else by Cox in the future, but if it is this involved of a book, I don't know that I could bring myself to actually trudge through it.

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