Saturday, March 24, 2007

Book Review: "The Meaning of Night"

Michael Cox's recent novel The Meaning of Night: A Confession (2006, W.W. Norton) is one of those that will keep you up at night ... particularly if you're using it as your pre-bedtime reading. I had an awful time forcing myself to read for just 45 minutes a night from it. In the vein of Palliser's Quincunx, this is a tale of disputed inheritances, consequential conspiracies, and dark English drama. "Edited" by the aptly-titled J.J. Antrobus, Professor of Post-Authentic Victorian Fiction, University of Cambridge, The Meaning of Night is the collected confessions of one Edward Glyver (one of the primary narrator's variously assumed names).

I'll spare you the plot, since I'm of the general view that novels should be read and not summarized. Cox has researched well, and adds much to the text with Antrobus' useful footnotes, which provide context or background information on characters (real and imagined), places, and books mentioned in the narrative. Yes, there are books here, and a private library described clearly enough to whet the appetites of any bibliophile. The descriptions are active and well-drawn, and if the characters are a bit typecast, each has his or her own quirk.

A solid (in every sense) work.