Saturday, November 24, 2007

Michael Cox/THE MEANING OF NIGHT



this is most interesting. i thought i had seen this perhaps reviewed earlier, and it was, by miss moonrat herself. she gave it an eh and didn't particularly like it. and here's my very opposite opinion. i consider the meaning of night to be the best book i've read this year. and i read jane austen's pride and prejudice for the first time this year as well as other "classics" such as in cold blood and brave new world. kinda goes to show how varied opinions can be, right?

and so the book begins :

"after killing the red-haired man, i took myself off to quinn's for an oyster supper.

it had been surprisingly -- almost laughably -- easy."

cox does many things that new novelists are warned against. (i mean, look at those ly words! =) he starts with a murder. a tad cliche. he jumps around as far as timeline of the tale. there are themes which aren't new to any reader, the anti-hero discovers he was given away as a baby. his childhood, his life, his history was never what it seemed (many fantasy books). there is an incredible estate involved (austen books, gone with the wind) which should be his to inherit, except for the rash decision his birth mother made to cast him aside.

the tale is a confession, narrated in the first person by edward glyver. he discovers after his mother died, that she was part of the conspiracy to deny the rich and powerful baron of evanwood estate (his birth father) an heir. his birth mother did this horrific act (giving away of her first son), in retalition against her husband. she would deny her husband the heir he wanted, even tho the act sends her to her own grave, she is so struck by guilt and sorrow for her lost son.

edward discovers along the way, as he searches for clues, that other people were roped in to conspire in this act of betrayal. when edward discovers his past enemy, phoebus daunt, has insinuated himself into his father's home, and is to be adopted and made heir to evanwood, he tries everything in his power to gather information against daunt and thwart it.

i think cox is a master at storytelling. he sets the scene of victoria england so well, and the tone of edward perfectly. you understand his anger and his pain, you feel his frustration at the cards he was dealt in life. it is a mystery that unravels for the reader, and we are forced to see edward make mistakes, misinterpret information, even as we know what the inevitable outcome will be.

i spent five hours straight last night reading, so that i could finish the book. i found that my heart was actually pounding close to the climax of the story. in the end, edward does kill his old nemesis, phoebus daunt : "i killed him, but in doing so, i killed the best part of myself". as a reader, i wanted this murder, it was a scene the author had to give, and he created an obsessive monster in edward, yet still, i got it. i understood and was sympathetic to edward. dare i say, i liked him. i think that is an amzing feat in itself, by cox.

of course, after reading this tale, i think my storytelling skills are about as good as lump of a fresh horse manure--hell, stale dried horse manure. but i'm inspired. it's great to see an author who can tell a compelling story in a different era, create mystery and suspence using familiar elements, but still give a fresh and gripping tale. cox said that this novel was thirty years in the making, and he only felt compelled to write it finally when he was in danger of losing his eyesight. it was now or never. on the backcover : the meaning of night was named one of the 10 best books of the year by the economist, the washington post, booklist, and booksense.

i highly recommend it.

4 comments:

Church Lady said...

What an awesome review! I like flawed characters. Sounds like a gripping story with excellent pacing. And in the first person? I have to read this!

moonrat said...

it is such a popular book that i'm really glad to see a disagreeing review.

cyn said...

MR, i can see why people may not like it, tho. or find edward unsympathetic, the writing overdone, and the beginning slow. it's diff than the usual stuff out there. and i'm glad it's something i've never really read before. i've never touched dickens or much of the victorian authors who inspired cox.

church lady, let me know what you think if you do read it! you can provide a third review!

Alan said...

Splendid review! My kind of story.