Despite being a little bored with Victorian fiction lately, I've been totally engrossed in this wonderfully gothic story for the past couple of days.
With the help of forged references, Esperanza Gorst becomes lady's-maid and later paid companion to the cold, haughty Lady Tansor, Emily Duport (nee Cartaret), the lover of Phoebus Daunt who was brutally murdered by Edward Gliver twenty years earlier. At first Esperanza has no idea why her guardian has sent her on this mission, but as she delves deeper into the secrets of the Duport dynasty she uncovers shocking information about her own background and that of the Duport heirs, brooding poet Perseus and nice-but-dim Randolph. Along the way she meets some wonderful almost Dickensian characters, including the comedy double-act of Montagu Wraxall and Inspector Gully, and her quest takes her from the stately Evenwood to the dark, dirty streets of London and beyond.
As for the question 'Do I need to have read The Meaning of Night before reading The Glass of Time?', well strictly speaking no, but I really would recommend it in order to get the full benefit of Glass of Time, as the plot is so closely based on that of its predecessor and the ending is such a satisfying conclusion to the two books. However, if your memories of The Meaning of Night are a bit hazy (as mine were), then don't worry, there are lots of journals and letters flying backwards and forwards between the characters in Glass of Time which serve as helpful synopses of previous events, as well as providing Esperanza with the keys to unlock her past.
All the double-crossing and machinations we came love in The Meaning of Night are here, but this book is nowhere near as dark as its predecessor and some of the twists and co-incidences are a little predictable (thus enabling the story to be tied up quite neatly at the end).
I was really sad to read that Michael Cox died earlier this year after a long illness. His extensive knowledge and love of Victorian fiction shone through these two books and his writing will be greatly missed.
The Glass of Time is a terrific story. It's a mixture of a suspense thriller, a romance with a bit of detective work too. Dastardly deeds, a string of surprises all add up to a book that is hard to put down. It's a fine sequel to the author's The Meaning of Night in which some of the characters are first introduced. I enjoyed the earlier book, but think this sequel even better. It's written in the first person which gives an immediacy to the story. The pacy story with twists and turns reminded me of Robert Goddard's Painting the Darkness with a touch of Austen's Pride & Prejudice.
on 24 July 2009
I have just finished reading A Glass of Time, and have that wonderful glow of having read a truly satisfying and well written book. I loved Michael Cox's `The Meaning of Night', and this is a worthy sequel. Although it clearly carries on the story set out in the first book, A Glass of Time can actually be read without first reading its predecessor. For people who have read `The Meaning of Night', this book gives a wonderful continuance of the story and we see major characters in a different light. The twists and turns kept me absolutely gripped throughout and the end brought the tragic story to a satisfying conclusion. It is beautifully written and clearly a homage to Victorian authors such as Wilkie Collins. It is more than just a pastiche though, and I thought the characters had a wonderful ambiguity and depth. I absolutely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good story, but especially to those who love Victorian novels.
on 19 March 2010
Having read rave reviews of 'The Glass of Time' when it was in hardback, I tracked down 'The Meaning of Night' and devoured a brilliant labyrinth of deception and betrayal, of rightful heirs wronged and treacherous deeds done with flair -in short, a kind of gothic romance historical mystery hybrid, beautifully written.
'The Glass of Time' is the sequel and manages to interweave complex goings-on, misperceptions, and skullduggery with the same skill and wit (there is a certain amount of knowingness in the plot's construction -one thinks that the narrator's much-admired Mr Wilkie Collins would heartily approve of how events unfold) as the earlier novel. As other reviewers have pointed out, it is not strictly necessary to have read 'The Meaning of Night' to follow the plot here although it will add to the richness of the experience as certain characters are reencountered several decades after we last saw them. My own recollections as to who did what to whom in 'The Meaning of Night' were somewhat hazy but I actually think that that added to my enjoyment of the story given that the narrator, Miss Esperanza Gorst, is herself investigating and discovering secrets from the past -the reader who is new to Evenwood and the Duport family will discover things alongside our guide, and the returning reader with a faulty memory will soon find that memory jogged.
I won't say anything of the plot as it is best to discover it for yourself.
Thoroughly enjoyable and a real page turner -recommended!
on 2 July 2012
I read The Meaning of Night and fell in love with it - it's unputdownable. When I finished it I was hungry for more and thought that this book, The Glass of Time, would be a good surrogate. Sadly this book is really badly written, insofar as it plods along for 600 pages without ever really grabbing you in. Like another reviewer said, I figured out what was going on pretty soon into the book but assumed that I must be wrong because what I had thought was surely too simple to be the real plot device of the book. Alas that wasn't the case and there were no surprises in this book. It's hard to believe how bad this book is compared with the Meaning of Night.
on 2 October 2008
The Glass of Time is a sequel of sorts to The Meaning of Night. Set in 1876, twenty-two years after Meaning of Night ends, the book begins when Esperanza "Alice" Gorst goes to Evenwood to (ostensibly) become Baroness Tansor's lady's maid. In reality, she's been sent by The Powers That Be to spy on her employer, for reasons that Esperanza will not be told until later.
We first met Baroness Tansor when she was Emily Carteret, engaged to Phoebus Daunt, the poet who was murdered twenty years before The Glass of Time opens. She still harbors feelings for her former flame, however, and one of the things she has Esperanza do is read from Daunt's work. She also has Esperanza run mysterious errands into town, much to the suspicions of Evenwood's housekeeper. What unfolds is a web of deception, lies, and, yes murder--not much more than that about the plot I'll say, only because I don't want to give anything away.
The Glass of Time has been one of the books I've been anticipating the most this year, and it didn't disappoint. Cox's long-winded, Dickensian style won't be to everyone's taste, but I really like his mode of writing--it sucked me right in from start to finish. His prose is descriptive, and his characters unusual and interesting. In Esperanza, Cox finds a bright, fresh, and new way to tell the story of the Tansor family. Cox's depiction of Victorian England is never contrived, like so many books set in that period and written lately are--another thing I loved about The Glass of Time.
Another thing I thought was excellent was that Cox (for the most part) got rid of the fiction that this is a "confession" edited and annotated by someone else for publication, using the convention of using footnotes to explain various passages. The Glass of Time is therefore that much more readable, making it only about 580 pages (the same length its predecessor might have been without footnotes). The reader figures out a long time before Esperanza does what's really going on; but the fun of the book is following Esperanza's journey. "I couldn't put it down" is such a clichéd sentence, but in this case... I really and truly couldn't put this book down.
Although Cox mentions events that took place in The Meaning of Night in this book, it's not entirely necessary to read it beforehand; a newspaper "clipping" about 130 pages in recaps the bare-bones storyline of The Meaning of Night. However, I would strongly suggest reading that book at some point--aside from its footnote problem, it's just as good as its sequel.
on 11 November 2009
I found this book in the library and it is so very very good. I longed to get back to read it, but I didn't want it to finish. It is a history/mystery /crime novel, with the serious possibility that it has some truth behind the story. I see it is now just out in paperback. If you like victorian stories, with a mystery, or just mysteries you'll love this. 500 pages plus in hardback when I read it.
on 13 April 2016
I almost gave up but persevered through a very long scene-setting with little to no dialogue and minute description, in the hope that it would eventually 'get going'. The twists and turns, however, weren't very twisty or turny as I could more or less guess what was coming round the next corner and there were no high ideals at stake - it was about money and status. The heroine's character was not very developed and her role was to solve a riddle. I can't understand why she could only be given the 'clues' over a period of time in a series of three letters, except as a device to keep the reader hanging on. I was unconvinced in respect of the love interest and in this I all but despised her at one point, for her shallowness. I won't spoil it for other readers by describing which 'point' this is.
This is the sequel to Michael Cox's The Meaning of Night. Although I don't think it's absolutely necessary to read the books in the correct order, it would make sense to do so. You'll definitely get the most out of this book if you've read the previous novel first and are already familiar with the plot and the characters.
The way The Meaning of Night ended had left me feeling dissatisfied, but The Glass of Time provides the perfect continuation to the story. Our narrator is Esperanza Gorst, an orphan who has been raised in France by her father's friend Madame L'Orme and her tutor Mr Thornhaugh. When she is nineteen years old, she is sent by her guardians to the beautiful estate of Evenwood in England, where she will work as lady's maid to Emily Carteret, the 26th Baroness Tansor. At first Esperanza doesn't know why she has been sent to Evenwood and is told only that it is part of Madame L'Orme's 'Great Task'. As she learns more about her mission, however, Esperanza begins to unravel the mysteries of both her own past and Lady Tansor's.
I enjoyed The Meaning of Night but I loved The Glass of Time even more. I thought Esperanza was a more likeable character than Edward Glyver (the narrator of The Meaning of Night), and the story also seemed to move at a faster pace. I literally didn't want to put this book down and finished it in two days (considering it's over 500 pages long that should indicate how much I was enjoying it).
While I was reading this book there were times when I could almost have believed it really had been written in the 19th century, as the setting, atmosphere and language are all flawlessly 'Victorian'. Charles Dickens was clearly one of Cox's biggest influences and he gives his characters Dickensian names, from Armitage Vyse and Billy Yapp to Perseus Duport and Sukie Prout. I also noticed lots of similarities to Dickens' Bleak House: the young orphan searching for the truth of her parentage; the noblewoman with a dark secret; the way the story moves between an idyllic country house and the dark, dangerous streets of Victorian London; the intricate plot and the cleverly interlocking storylines.
I could also recognise elements of various Wilkie Collins novels (Esperanza Gorst is even seen reading No Name at one point). In both writing style and structure this book does feel very like one of Collins' sensation novels, filled with cliffhangers and plot twists - and with parts of the mystery being revealed through letters, diary entries and newspaper clippings. I did find some of the twists very predictable but that didn't matter to me, because it was actually fun to be one step ahead of Esperanza, waiting for her to discover what I had already guessed.
It's so sad that there won't be any more books from Michael Cox, as he died of cancer in 2009, but together these two novels are the best examples of neo-Victorian fiction I've read: complex, atmospheric and beautifully written.
on 8 October 2008
I loved The Meaning of Night, and it was one of the best novels I have read for a long time, and The Glass of Time is an excellent sequel. Having said that, although I was gripped by the plot (and read half of the novel in a day), I felt the previous novel was better and will be re-read this winter.
The plot of The Glass of Time is slow to unfold, setting the scene of Esperanza's arrival at Evenwood, but once the story begins to get its vice-like grip on the reader, all is revealed.
I won't spoil the book for anyone who hasn't read it, but I would recommend they read The Meaning of Night first to get the whole picture and to know the psychology behind the murderer of the unpleasant Mr Daunt.
Michael Cox is a superb writer and I look forward to reading his next novel which will, I hope, be in the same style as these two.