The Meaning of Night: A Confession by Michael Cox was published by McClelland & Steward in September of 2006. This book was started over 15 years ago by Michael Cox and when you pick it up, feel the weight of it in your hands, and begin to read, you know that you are about to be consumed completely by a story that has lived inside this man for 15 years.
With the opening lines of this novel you are swallowed by an intricate compelling story.
After killing the red-haired man, I took myself off to Quinn’s for an oyster supper. It had been surprisingly – almost laughably – easy. I had followed him for some distance, after observing him in Threadneedle-street I cannot say why I decided it should be him, and not one of the others on whom my searching eye had alighted that evening.
Immediately you wonder why. Why has this character, whose own name we are unsure of until later in the book, killed a man whose name he does not know? What we do learn is that this man, Edward Glyver, has been wronged in some terrible way. Edward’s whole life has been altered by one man, Phoebus Rainsford Daunt, from being swindled out of his birthright to having his school career damaged beyond repair. Only Edward can see Daunt for what he really is, a charming, petty, self-absorbed thief.
Each part of Edward’s story is told by him to different people in his life. From Bella, the long-time lover he could never truly love, to his best friend from his school days, Le Grice. Little by little you come to know him and his complicated past. He is careful not to reveal too much to each person, but we as the reader see all, just as he intends us to.
Edward is an obsessive character, driven by this theft of his birthright. He is obsessive about books, a dedicated bibliophile and scholar. Edward tells you himself that he does things you will not like, from his occasional opium use to solicitation. He is only human, doing very human things.
Ten years after his mother's death, Edward finally starts to go through her papers. She was a successful novelist and there are stacks of things for him to sort, and while sifting through the drifts, he find her diaries, small, compact black books that reveal to him his true identity. He is not Edward Glyver but Edward Charles Duport.
For the first time he realizes that he belongs to one of the oldest and most powerful families in all of England. Edward decides to reclaim his rights, his standing in the world. He begins his restoration which brings him closer and closer to Phoebus Rainsford Daunt.
Beautifully written, this is a classic in the making. This novel has it all – a dark character you have to follow to the end. It covers the full spectrum of human emotion.