Helen's Reviews > The Meaning Of Night

The Meaning Of Night by Michael Cox
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May 19, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: library-books, historical-fiction
Read from May 16 to 19, 2010

The plot will be a familiar one to anyone who has read a lot of Victorian fiction – The Meaning of Night is a story of love, betrayal and deceit, revolving around a lost inheritance and a childhood rivalry. A vast country estate, a beautiful, mysterious heroine, and the dark, foggy streets of 19th century London combine to make this a clever imitation of the Victorian sensation novel.

The book is presented as a genuine 19th century manuscript, complete with an ‘Editor’s Preface’ and numerous footnotes. The use of footnotes, which seemed to appear on almost every page, reminded me of Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. However, whereas in Jonathan Strange the footnotes really added something to the story, providing us with fascinating anecdotes about the history of magic, in The Meaning of Night they served very little purpose – other than to give the book a scholarly feel. Overall though, this was one of the best written of all the novels of this type that I’ve read so far and I was impressed by the author’s use of language and writing style to make this feel like an authentic 19th century novel.

The only thing that really disappointed me about this book was the ending. I can’t say too much about it without spoiling the story for you, but the ending left me feeling dissatisfied – I had been hoping for a few more plot twists.

This book won’t be to everyone’s taste – if you simply don’t like intricately plotted Victorian or Victorian-style novels you’ll want to avoid this one. However, fans of Charles Dickens or Wilkie Collins will probably enjoy this book, as they were clearly two of Michael Cox’s influences (many of the characters have Dickensian names such as Phoebus Daunt, Fordyce Jukes and Josiah Pluckrose). It should also appeal to readers of Sarah Waters, Charles Palliser or other writers of neo-Victorian fiction.
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