Summary and book reviews of The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox

The Meaning of Night

A Confession

By Michael Cox

The Meaning of Night

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About this Book

Book Summary

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 extraordinary 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.

Part the First
Death of a Stranger
October–November 1854

What a skein of ruffled silk is the uncomposed man.

Owen Felltham, Resolves (1623), ii, ‘Of Resolution’

1
Exordium[1]

After killing the red-haired man, I took myself off to Quinn’s[2]  for an oyster supper.

It had been surprisingly – almost laughably – easy. I had followed him for some distance, after first observing him in Threadneedle-street. I cannot say why I decided it should be him, and not one of the others on whom my searching eye had alighted that evening. I had been walking for an hour or more in the vicinity with one purpose: to find someone to kill. Then I saw him, outside the entrance to the Bank, amongst a huddle of pedestrians waiting for the crossing-sweeper to do his work. Somehow he seemed to stand out from the crowd of identically dressed clerks and City men streaming forth from the premises. He stood regarding the ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. 'After killing the red-haired man, I took myself off to Quinn's for an oyster supper.'

    The first line unexpectedly introduces Edward Glyver as a murderer. In some ways he is an unlikely hero. How quickly does the reader begin to support him? Is it sympathy, admiration or something else that first causes the reader to support this character?

  2. 'For Death is the meaning of night
    The eternal shadow
    Into which all lives must fall
    All hopes expire'
    P. Rainsford Daunt, 'From the Persian'

    What is the significance of the ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

The characters are delightfully typecast - there's the tragic figure of our much put-upon anti-hero who is driven to commit violence for what he believes is a justified cause; a truly dastardly old-Etonian poetry-spouting villain (who, if this was a play, would receive hisses from the audience every time he came on stage); the exceedingly wealthy and influential Lord Tansor, living off the gains of his brighter ancestors; a dead-ringer for Uriah Heap; plus a massive supporting cast representing every strata of society, both urban and country; and last but not least, Evenwood House itself and its great library - the representation of everything that Edward yearns for but that remains tantalizingly out of reach.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

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Media Reviews
The Daily Telegraph - Alastair Sooke

It is substandard, ersatz hokum. The only way to stay the course of its 600 pages is to treat the over-egged writing as tenaciously tongue-in-cheek.

The Daily Telegraph - David Robson

[A]n impressively fluent first novel which should appeal to lovers of Victorian pastiche. It is a great door-stopper of a book, and has been 30 years in the writing, but it never feels like heavy going.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. A bibliophilic, cozy, murderous confection out of foggy old England...[a] long, learned and remarkably entertaining treat.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Its exemplary blend of intrigue, history and romance mark a stand-out literary debut.

Booklist- Joanne Wilkinson

Starred Review. Cox invokes emotions, from the iciest betrayal to all-consuming love, on a grand scale and gives them an equally impressive backdrop as he depicts a fetid London, its streets filthy but its people in thrall to the smallest details of social stratification. A masterful first novel and a must for readers of Iain Pears and David Liss.

Library Journal

Starred Review. Cox creates a strong sense of place, a complex narrative full of unexpectedly wicked twists, and a well-drawn cast of supporting characters...[a] masterpiece.

The New York Times - Janet Maslin

During the convoluted course of his adventures, Edward inevitably fixates on an unattainable woman. “I have loved you from the very first moment,” he tells her blandly. And he courts her in ways that, like so much of “The Meaning of Night,” are oddly blank despite their seeming specificity.

Reader Reviews
Avid Historical Reader

Intrigue
When this novel began, I thought I was reading another Jack the Ripper, serial killer, confession novel. I was amazingly wrong. This novel is filled with intrigue, horror, pity, love, friendship, betrayal... I could not put this book down. So in ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

In the acknowledgments for The Meaning of Night, Michael Cox notes that three real places contributed in various ways, to the making of Evenwood, the extremely grand private estate at the heart of this novel. These are Drayton House and Deene Park, both in Northamptonshire and Burghley House. If you have plans to read this book, or have read it, it's worth a few minutes of your time to visit these houses online, to get a sense of what Evenwood would have been like.


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