The tagline "A secret buried. A love betrayed. A destiny revealed"
worried me a little bit. I don't usually read books with two or more of the
words "love", "secret" and "destiny" on the front cover.
But Michael Cox's 600-page debut novel is not a girly romance. Elegant
and multi-facetted, The Meaning of Night
poses as a partly true story,
written by a certain Edward Charles Glyver (an unreliable narrator not unlike
Poe's or Nabokov's creations) and "edited" for publication by professor "J.J.
Antrobus". The occationally odd names of people and places may seem a bit too
cute at first (Phoebus Rainsford Daunt?!), and I haven't read all of the
"editor's notes", but Cox is easily forgiven, because he can write. Much better
than the stale and artificial prose of overrated mystery writers like Dan Brown
and Paul Sussman, the language in The Meaning of Night
flawless, well-paced, smooth and elegant.
The story in written in the formal tone of mid-19th century Britain,
but it doesn't seem at all artificial, at least to a non-native speaker
(reader?) like me. The first-person narrative draws you in, the characters are
well developed, and the dialogue is completely believable, all of which amount
to an unusually compelling fictional universe, one that you feel like exploring
in every detail.
I enjoyed The Meaning of Night
very much, and while it won't
supplant "The Lord of the Rings" as my favourite novel, it is still one of the
best books I've read this year. Four-and-three-quarter stars. I'm looking
forward to seeing if Cox has more books in him like this one.
The Meaning of Night