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5/30 Day Book Meme: A Book That Makes Me Happy

In which I answer somewhat rhetorical question.

Day 5: A Book That Makes You Happy:

Books that concern with human struggles and forces of humanity always find an audience in me. Literature is an imitation of life. Imagine life-stills stitched together in words on pages. Literature is the great school of motivation: it teaches us how, out of the complex welter of impulses churning within us, we make the choices that define us and seal our fate. Imagine how we grasp, response to, and make sense of the complex internal mix of feelings an author imbue to his/her characters. However excruciating or poignant the story might be, literature makes me happy. That said, I am not going to be philosophical with my selection today.

A book without Morrison’s unrealistic elements and realistic presentation of life, Faulkner’s meticulous attention to diction and cadence, Ishiguro’s technique to allow his characters to reveal their flaws implicitly—can still be a satisfying read. Sometimes a book with direct, linear plot give me a very touchy feeling. Books that involve animals, especially dogs, always touch me because I have a misgiving that as loyally and mindfully as my dog clings to me, I can never carry on a meaningful conversation with him like I do with humans. Dogs are extremely receptive to sounds and scent, which establish a basis of their acumen in memory. By separating nuances of scents and distinguishing sounds that take a long time to find our noses and ears, dogs commit into memory that help identify a threat or a treat. Dogs are keen observers: when they tilt the head, prick the ears, and gauge the content of human exchanges, they are watching us.

A Dog’s Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron is lighter than the tear-jerking, nose-blowing The Art of Racing in the Rain. It is a remarkable story of one endearing dog’s search for purpose over the course of four lives. It touches on the universal, rhetorical question that has puzzled philosophers over time: Why are we here? As much as he was taught to avoid men at all costs, the dog’s fate is inextricably linked with theirs, feeling their pain, sharing their joy, and sensing their inner sadness. For all of us dog owners, our pet are destined to be entwined with our lives. Some of us cannot get over losing our pet, but ironically they are made therapists to cheer up the sick.

4/30 Day Book Meme: Favorite Book of a Series

In which I reflect on the best book in my favorite series, a literary thriller set in Victorian England.

Day 4: Favorite book of your favorite series:

Both authors, Michael Cox and Stieg Larsson passed away in the middle without finishing the series. It’s been said that Larsson’s what is now known as the Millennium series was meant to consist of 10 volumes. Michael Cox’s duo, The Meaning of Night and The Glass of Time, are the best series I’ve read. They belong to a cross genre known as literary thrillers. The Glass of Time would reinforce happenings and secrets from The Meaning of Night. Building onto the events and their aftermath in the first book, the sequel digs even deeper into the secrets that provoke and justify Edward Glyver’s calculated, punctilious murder in the first novel. A girl named Alice is instructed to infiltrate the house of Lady Tansor. That emptiness in her becomes an opportunity for Alice to insinuate into her life for the purpose of retribution. Consequence of love can be as dire as the commission of murder and to self-destruction. As for Alice herself, as truth to be revealed, he has loved and trusted only to be given deception and lies in return. On top of revenge, the book is about the struggles to honor one’s personal history, to break free of the weight (mistakes) of the past, and to form lasting ties even while holding on to secrets kept in plain sight. I am pulled in different directions by the competing claims of Lady Tansor and Alice Gorst, who are brought together by sinful legacy, in a clash between emotion, friendship, and the demands of justice.

[340] The Glass of Time – Michael Cox

” She is magnificent, dishevelled, and diminished though she is—a queen indeed, unassailable, unconquerable, her beauty transfigured into something strange and unearthly. I wonder how I could ever have believed that I could overcome her. It is only too plain. She has overcome me, despite all my strategems, all the tricks I had devised, under Madame’s instructions, to bring her down. ” [35:528]

Building onto the events and their aftermath in The Meaning of Night, The Glass of Time digs even deeper into the secrets that provoke and justify Edward Glyver’s calculated, punctilious murder in the first novel. It is difficult to discuss the sequel without referring to the events of its predecessor (spoiler alert for The Meaning of Night): Lady Emily Tansor née Cateret, knowing that her father, who was then secretary of the 25th Baron Tansor, was in possession of documents that would prove Edward Glyver’s birthright and therefore deprive her lover, Phoebus Daunt, of his baronial expectations, planned an attack in complicity with Daunt on her father in order to snatch the papers. But the person about the mission exceeded his commission. Edward Glyver’s own mother, Lady Laura Tansor, had on purpose and out of spite kept from her husband all knowledge of his son’s birth. As a result, Edward grew up in sheer ignorance of his true identity. When he discovered that Lord Tansor’s resolve to leave Phoebus Daunt, his arch enemy, the rightful inheritance, his antagonism and bitter envy towards Phoebus reanimated.

She was strong in wealth, mighty in inherited rank and authority; but she was weak and defenceless in this perpetual servitude to the memory of Phoebus Daunt. [13:209]

The Glass of Time concerns the events after Edward Glyver killed Phoebus Daunt and finds Lady Tansor in her early fifties. Despite her wealth and charming allure, she is rather lonesome, slowly eaten away by her enslaving memory to Daunt. All the secrets and evidence of fraud that helped her gain the title of nobility are safely buried until one Madame de l’Orme is contrived to send nineteen-year-old Alice Gorst into Evenwood, where she will become Lady Tansor’s maid. Under Madame’s instructions via surreptitious missives, Alice is to become the Lady’s complaisant and acquiescent companion that Her Ladyship craves—-although Alice is reminded that the Lady is always her enemy. Her ultimate goal is to bring her down.

But with every smile she gave me, every soft touch of her hand on mine, every affectionate look, the harder it became for me to believe that she was my enemy, whom I had been sent to destroy. Already I could feel myself falling prey to her subtle charms, which I knew I must resist, or all would be lost. [18:278]

As Alice pries into the Lady’s secrets, the novel proceeds with an exciting and giddy swiftness. All the insidious schemes, secrets, and double dealing aside, the novel expounds on the power of love as well as its danger. Lady Tansor’s cardinal but blind passion for Phoebus Daunt becomes a weakness because it deprives her of reason, rendering her bereft of attachment to anyone. That emptiness in her becomes an opportunity for Alice to insinuate into her life for the purpose of retribution. Consequence of love can be as dire as the commission of murder and to self-destruction. As for Alice herself, as truth to be revealed, he has loved and trusted only to be given deception and lies in return. On top of revenge, the book is about the struggles to honor one’s personal history, to break free of the weight (mistakes) of the past, and to form lasting ties even while holding on to secrets kept in plain sight. I am pulled in different directions by the competing claims of Lady Tansor and Alice Gorst, who are brought together by sinful legacy, in a clash between emotion, friendship, and the demands of justice.

583 pp. [Read/Skim/Toss] [Buy/Borrow]

[325] The Meaning of Night – Michael Cox

” Revenge has a long memory. ” [46:678]
” I had taken my revenge, and he had paid the price that I had set for the many injuries he had done to me; but I felt scant comfort, and not a trace of elation, only the dull sense of a duty done. ” [46:679]

“After killing the red-haired man, I took myself off to Quinn’s for an oyster supper.” So begins the story of Edward Glyver, which, actually, is not his real name. The random act to kill, so swiftly and without compunction, is no more than an exercise, a prelude, that will steel him for the real gig. A revengeful murder on a former classmate who had then wronged him and now takes his inheritance. Set in Victorian England, The Meaning of Night is an engrossing and complicated tale of deception, heartlessness, and wild justice, in which a rightful heir contrives to win back what belongs to him, even if he has to compromise with the law. As secrets of his rearing reveals, Glyver’s life has all been deceit.

Yet even this was not my true name, and Captain and Mrs. Edward Glyver of Sandchurch, Dorset, were not my parents. It all began, you see, in deceit; and only when the truth is told at last will expiation be made and the poor unquiet soul, from whom all these troubles have flowed, find peace at last. [8:100]

A chance discovery from Mrs. Glyver’s journal launches his quest to find proof that would enable him to claim his rightful place as a member of the prestigious Duport family in Evenwood. Insinuated into the solicitor firm that acted on confidentiality, Edward Glyver, now Edward Glapthorn, seeks information on the surreptitious arrangement made between a Ladyship and his foster-mother, Simona Glyver. The papers concerning Edward’s true identity is secured by Paul Cateret, secretary to Lord Tansor of Duport, who is murdered.

The more layers of the secret peeled, the better and more engrossing the story of The Meaning of Night becomes. The voluminous book has no fillers. Glyver is an attractive anti-hero, bibliophilic, scholarly, and passionate, someone with whom readers would sympathize, without necessarily approving of him. After all, he is someone who is morally compromised, obsessive, and driven to commit violence for what he believes to be a judicial cause.

Everything that should have been mine was to go to Daunt, being the step-son of Lord Tansor’s second cousin, Mrs. Caroline Daunt, who, by this relationship, might one day complete her triumph and inherit the title herself, as a female collateral descendant of the First Baron Tansor. [38:559]

In a sense, the shock of the first sentence of the novel (as I have quoted above) has prepared me for the true state of Glyver’s mind and being. He is a victim, not only of his own obsessive and fractured nature but also because of the selfish and misguided actions of his birth mother. A decision causes lifetime consequences on her son. What makes this novel a thrill is that every word is to be weighed on its reliability, as the legitimate heir deprived of his birthright, insinuates into family secret and becomes detective of his enemy. The themes of betrayal, revenge, social status, and moral hypocrisy echo the works written in the historical period in which the novel is set. It ponders on how inherited wealth and privilege have trampled implacably on the claims of common human feeling and family connexion.

703 pp. [Read/Skim/Toss] [Buy/Borrow]

Reading Notes: The Meaning of Night

How far would you go for revenge? Play a joke to get even? Or murder? The protagonist in The Meaning of Night (Michael Cox) had been wronged during his youth and thus lost the chance to attend Cambridge. He is coming back to get even with the person, now a celebrity, who conspired to rid of him back in Eton.

Only when the subject of Phoebus Rainsford Daunt had been completely mastered would I know where the blow should fall that would bring catastrophe upon him. For the moment, I must bide my time, until I returned to England, to begin setting my plans in motion. [156]

A crime thriller, this is one crackling book with literary flair. The sly sense of humor beneath the narrative brings out the bizarre and dangerous hypocrisies of Victorian England. I am completely engrossed at the moment.