The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox
After killing the red-haired man, I took myself off to Quinn’s for an oyster supper.
So begins the story of Edward Glyver, booklover, scholar, and murderer. A chance discovery convinces Glyver that greatness awaits him. His path to win back what is rightfully his leads him to Evenwood, one of England’s most enchanting country houses, and a woman who will become his obsession.
I fell in love with the first chapter of this book after reading the summary. It was everything I could ever want in a great novel: Victorian England, gothic setting, murder, mystery, story-telling, love, scandal, the highs and lows of London life — and yet, I could not love this book as much as I wanted to.
Cox certainly needs to be applauded, though! If Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens were still alive today, I think they would congratulate him on his writing abilities and perfect imitation of literature of the time. Cox wrote this piece as if an editor had discovered a long-lost autobiography, complete with footnotes, snatches of parchment covered in poetry, dreams written down after opium and laudanum intake, and of course, the ability to tell a story in “too many words.” This could certainly have been a serial story if such things still existed today.
However, as brilliant as the writing is and the thorough research put into this piece, I was saddened by my thoughts as I read it. I kept thinking, when will this end? Just get to the point. Collins and Dickens always had surprises and plot twists and sidebars to keep the readers entertained during the major plot, but Cox seemed to lack this. Everything connected together almost too well. After a while I became less and less sympathetic towards Edward Glyver/Glapthorn (his name changes frequently depending on whom he speaks with) and his mission.
My favorite moments were moments of Edward’s vulnerability: his time in Evenwood. Every chapter with him there brings about a certain humanity. It’s more than his love for Emily Carteret, it’s more than his revenge on Daunt, and it’s more than his personal connection to the estate. Something about it makes him more human, more likeable, and more vulnerable. I looked forward to those chapters and relished it — sadly, there weren’t enough of them.
I would recommend this book to history buffs and hardcore Dickens fans, as it contains everything one would love. Sadly, for me, I may have just had extremely high expectations.