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[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.