The Meaning of Night: A Confession Prime –

This book started out great The first line, After killing the red haired man, I took myself off to Quinn s for an oyster supper really hooked me As the book continued it proved interesting, a tale narrated in the first person by a man of obvious derangement convinced of his own rationality and the fact that he is justified in any action taken towards furthering his own ends Cox does an excellent job of capturing the feel of a Victorian novel, and I think that may ultimately have been the problem As the story continued for page after page I simply got too bogged down in the sheer Victorian ness of it Tiny details of little or no interest and constant digressions from the main plot as the narrator sees conspiracies against him in every corner and hidden meaning in every turn of phrase Sheer number of pages or word count is not usually a huge impediment to me, but there just wasn t enough of a pay off here for me to have any desire to continue.Maybe someday I ll come back to this book and see if I ll find it any less of a slog, but this one was just too much for me when I first tried to tackle it. This book is perhaps the worst book I ve read in several years The plot twists were inane I kept thinking that the twists were so obvious that surely they were just decoys designed to obscure the real twists, but no Those WERE the real twists, twists that were super obvious and could only be surprising to someone who was either dumb or reading a totally different book And the whole thing went on and on for something like 690 pages And I hated the protagonist There was no point to anything he did OK, so he was the real Lord Tansor after I figured that out on, like, page 3, I then had to sit for 687pages while the idiot went on and on and on with a plan that was never going to work and that I as a reader was hoping wouldn t work The only character I liked was the one who couldn t talk Seriously. Allow me to stop and doff my stove pipe hat to you Mr Cox, for truly you are a man who has done his research Having recently perused the weighty tome that is The Meaning of Night, I am reacquainted with what it means to be a man obsessed Both the protaganist and the author have their fixations but over 700 pages it is apparent that Michael Cox s obsession for mid Victorian history and literature is as all consuming as Edward Glyvers determination for revenge Whether you regard the footnotes as a helpful point of reference presuming you too are the kind of person who checks the validity of historic references in fictional novels , or as Cox cheerfully showing off just how much he really knows about the period in question, you surely cannot fail but to admire him for a magnificent work of fiction with some faction thrown in I realise that through goodreads goodreading I ve become a fan of this kind of book and this has taken me by surprise but some of this stuff is a pretty good substitute for Victorian Era literature if you ever get to the point that you ve read all that period has to offer I ve got the Crimson Petal and the White to read and also Cox s other work of fiction The Glass of Time lined up for next month Take note though reader, if you are looking for a fairy tale ending then you may wish to refer back to the much cited Les Milles et Une Nuits because you re not going to find one here. Fellow not so gentle readers ripped this book a new one Why Mainly because it was long This seems to be a very common complaint in our contemporary culture Everyone cries out for an editor We seem to prefer our prose tight and terse and conveying just enough.This is another reason why my tastes are so helplessly out of my time I enjoy wallowing in description I actually don t mind if the author runs on a bit or eventhan a bit if the story grabs me In the case of this title I also suspect the author chose to beflorid with the phrasing to convey the feel of a Victorian novel The Victorians were not exactly minimalistsin anything Back before Youtube and IM and 4 minute microwave dinners people could stick with a longer story The Victorians would certainly prefer a tale that was of robust lengththere were not as many competitors for the reader s spare time A book that would last awhile was probably considered an asset.So, if you dislike the plot, which is actually rather intriguing or hate the characters some are truly despicable people or feel the style faux Victorian wordiness is not to your tastego ahead and slam this book six ways to Sunday But, if the main complaint is that it was too long then choose a shorter book next time.For anyone who is not automatically turned off by length and by the Victorian setting, I would recommend this as a good read It would appeal to someone who enjoys rooting for the bad guy sometimesand who is flexible in mind enough to accept gray areas in character development Yes, good people can do inexcusable thingsand people who the world sees as heroic can be shams and con men If this sort of thing is not palatable to you, this is not the story you are seeking. I was warned to persevere through the slow beginning, and after a few chapters it really does become the gripping page turner promised in the back cover reviews In the first sentence, the main character murders an unknown man He shortly reveals himself to be a grossly immoral opium eater bent on revenge hardly an auspicious beginning even for an anti hero, but at least an intriguing one Soon the intrigue becomes almost palpable and the hero becomes quite sympathetic as layer after layer of his story is revealed through various characters letters, journals, and recollections Intensely atmospheric, very layered, and surprisingly easy to follow what s not to like I did anticipate the major plot twists rather far in advance, possibly because I m naturally suspicious and read a lot of mysteries However, my anticipation of them did nothing to diminish my enjoyment of the drama Michael Cox has masterfully captured the flavor of Victorian London and literature and created a mystery that really will keep you up at night Intriguing I m reasonably certain that this is the first book I ve given 2 stars since joining GoodReads Partly because I m easily amused partly because I tend to read stuff I already know I m going to like recommended by a friend, work of an author I ve enjoyed in the past, good reviews, etc I borrowed The Meaning of Night from my mother in law because I needed something to read on the commute and I wasn t buying myself new books so close to Christmas I asked her if it was any good her response was eh Bad sign.So this is, as the subtitle indicates, a confessional novel, and the central conceit is that it s real , recently discovered by a professor who specializes in Victoriana So it s written in a Victorian style kind of I had a nagging feeling while reading the entire thing that there were anachronisms, not in terms of facts and places but in terms of the narrator s attitudes and other intangibles I wasn t able to suspend my disbelief at all the entire book felt like an adult in the 21st century pretending to write as someone in 1855 To my ear it lacked authenticity The book suffers from other problems as well SPOILERS AHEAD trust me, you don t want to read the book, so let me spare you the trouble The main character confesses to murdering a stranger on page 1 He also quickly indicates that he only killed the stranger as practice so that he would feel confident enough to murder his enemy So right off we have an extremely unsympathetic protagonist Then for 600 pages we get the back story of why the protagonist thinks his enemy deserves to be murdered It s extremely straightforward stuff I kept waiting for a twist but nothing happened that I didn t see coming Then, in the end, the protagonist kills his enemy in the most boring way imaginable There s zero character development and zero conflict Protagonist hates his enemy, justifies his hate, and kills his enemy There s never the slightest doubt that the protagonist will survive because he has to in order to write the ex post facto confession Nor is there any way for him to have a change of heart, nor is there any chance of him getting caught, ibid And speaking of ibid , a word about footnotes The book technically has two narrators the protagonist writing the confession, and the professor who discovered the manuscript The second narrator only intrudes in two ways an introduction at the very beginning, and footnotes throughout the text Now, I appreciate a good footnote Other books I ve recently read have made great use of footnotes The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, for instance hilarious, vibrant asides and explanations made in the footnotes which really enhance the overall experience in a meta fiction kind of way Or the edition of A Tale of Two Cities I read those footnotes were useful because they addressed certain things that made the text clearer, explaining things which Dickens correctly felt would be understood by his contemporary audience The footnotes in The Meaning of Night, however, were just awful Bear in mind that the novel only has one author, pretending simultaneously to be a Victorian murderer and a modern professor So every obscure reference in the book was chosen deliberately by the author, and then footnoted by the author, but often in spectacularly unhelpful ways A running theme is that the protagonist loves rare books, so he will occasional make passing reference to so and so s folio Then the footnote gives the folio s complete author, complete title, and date of publication, and other utterly useless esoterica which add nothing to the bottom line understanding Again, I kept waiting for the professor to become a true character through the footnotes, to see some kind of relevance down there, but it never happened Alas.Like a true English major, I ve now written my longest review for the book I ve liked the least It just bugs me when books are bad Convinced He Is Destined For Greatness, Glyver Will Stop At Nothing To Win Back A Prize That He Knows Is Rightfully His A Story Of Betrayal And Treachery, Of Death And Delusion, Of Ruthless Obsession And AmbitionThe 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 HisGlyver 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 DauntThe Meaning Of Night Is An Enthralling Novel That Will Captivate Readers Right Up To Its Final Thrilling Revelation I once read that there were over ten thousand books written during the Victorian period This period that lasted roughly from the early 19th century to its close spawned some of the most popular and celebrated authors in the history of literature Dickens, Elliot, Trollope, and the under appreciated Wilkie Collins all released great books that have been enjoyed by countless generations of readers ranging from mid 19th century lawyers to early 21st century web designers These books have survived the test of time and remained on bookshelves while millions of other books have fallen into obscurity So now I present you with an interesting question Why would anyone be interested in reading books written today set in these time periods and setting by people who were born almost a century later What possible insight into the reality of these periods would any author in the opening years of the 21st century have about 19th century Victorian London Well, the only answer I can offer is that these new books are a celebration of the great novels of M.E Braddon or Collins Granted, you could probably spend the rest of your life reading all of the books written during the Victorian Era but reading a book such as the Meaning of Night leaves you with a feeling that you really can t tell the difference Michael Cox s research into this period gives a very fresh and realistic feel If you weren t aware, you could almost be mistaken that this was even written by Wilkie Collins Unfortunately, this major strength is also its weakness There are almost too many similarities between this novel and some of the sensation classics of the 1860s such as No Name If this novel were written during that time period it probably would not stand out and ultimately fall into obscurity The writing here is great but there were many parts of the novel that inhibited the pacing that really leaves you to believe that it really is inferior to the classics So my advice to you is this Read Collins, Braddon, Trollope, and Elliot If you have exhausted the repertoire of these authors and are hungry forthen read The Meaning of Night But you ve got a lot of reading to do and if you don t get to this book don t worry You are really not missing a lot. I could only get up to page 166 in this book before I gave up, thats out of about 600 pages.This book was like the love child of Dickens and Austen, which is then orphanned and left to be raised by a commune of varrious victorian era British melodramatists It took at least 100 pages before the author finally got to the point of telling us precisely WHY his main character needs revenge on someone Even then, 60 pages into the story of this guys past, I m falling asleep.I found the characters two dimensional, the setting not used nearly enough, and the premise cliche to say the least I just couldn t stomach any of this as it was distracting me from other reading If you are a fan of British melodrama, then you should read this I personally was hopping for something less flowery andstreet level gritty Stop lamenting about getting revenge, and get your revenge already 3 1 2This is another book which is, in a way, hard for me to review The book was not without its flaws In many ways I can think ofnegative things to say about the book than positive ones but, despite that, I still liked it I didn t love it, and I wouldn t rave about it or say that it s a must read but it is interesting, and I wouldn t suggest you not read it, either.The book started with promise, and I was enthralled It was texture and sumptuous, as we journied with Edward through his first murder and his reaction to it We get into his head his madness and paranoia as we see things unravel, even as he seems to think himself calm and rational The first couple hundred pages were excellent.But then we get to the backstory, and here things slow down a pace Some parts were interesting, some less so, but it seemed to drag I think the biggest problem was that we learned some of the same things multiple times from different sources It s supposed to be pieces here and pieces there, putting them together to get the whole picture, but the whole picture was frustratingly obvious and it took far too long for the narrator to put them together I always hate it when the detectives and here I use the term loosely are so much stupider than their audience.It s a failing, to be sure but whether it s a failing in that the author made the protagonist too slow on the uptake or whether he gave the audience too much information at the outset is left up to the reader I think fixing either would ve made it a better read, but since it is supposed to be a mystery I would ve liked it if the reveals and there were a few of them weren t so bleeding obvious And I have to say that I m usually a bit slow on the uptake myself, and can often get taken for a ride by something which should ve been obvious but wasn t, so if I saw the twists coming a mile away, I m sure others saw them from several hundred miles The ending did get better, though Instead of drudging through various backstories and histories, we get back into the narrator s head the best place to be in the story Yes, the backstory is important how can we sympathize with our aspiring murderer if we don t know the reasons for it, and hate his enemy eventhan we might hate him But farinteresting are his emotions and mental state The language wasn t off putting for me, though I m not sure I really got a feel for the era It was well researched to be sure, but the footnotes became a distraction It wasn t that important that I know where a certain restaurant was, or when some famous or important person mentioned was born and died I wanted to skip over them, but, being the mildly obsessive person that I am, couldn t They didn t provide humor, like Pratchett s footnotes, and they didn t provide layers of world building like Clark s footnotes They just offered trivia trivial trivia and were generally unnecessary.The facts of the story, and its overall plot, were fair to middling As I said, the mystery is easily solved and the narrator s amount of lacking on this point was frustrating.But if you are someone who can enjoy a story for the journey, and not the destination if you carefor how something comes about than the obviousness of what s going to happen then perhaps you will enjoy it If you are all destination, tho, then you won t.I m a bit of both I enjoyed the how Even when I could see the impending betrayal coming from a mile away, I was still curious as to how and when it would happen, and,importantly, what the reaction would be Even though you know how this book will end, it s the getting there that matters.I know I seem to be contradicting myself but I ll elaborate by saying it s the mental getting there, not the factual getting there The latter part was still too drawn out.But for those times when we were in the mind and heart of the narrator when we don t get get the facts that he knows but when we are brought into how he thinks and feels Oh, these times are wonderfully and wickedly delicious It s like a taste, almost a decadence of the mind that lingers in the memory It s just a pity that it didn t all live up to to the same standard.One final note this is a book that you have to read when you re in the mood for it, for it does require a certain mind set, in a way It s not something that s easily taken in drips and drabs for a few passing moments here and there This is a book that you need to take your time with, to really immerse yourself into I kept being interrupted, annoyingly enough, which I think hampered my enjoyment somewhat.It s not a quick meal it s something you want to have time to savor so you should partake when you have the time and inclination to do so.