Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A Tome


I finally finished The Meaning of Night! I don't think I've mentioned it here, but I realized I've been reading this 700 page behemoth for a month now. Not because I didn't like it, but because this book felt long, full of descriptive passages of location and lengthy life stories of all the main characters. There are 700 page books that fly by, but for me, this one didn't. That certainly doesn't make it not worth reading, but it is a commitment.

The Meaning of Night is written as a confession, a document that it's editor believes to be true. The first words we read from narrator Edward are:

After killing the red-haired man, I took myself off to Quinn's for an oyster supper.

As you can see, it starts with a bang and we know from the beginning that our narrator is perhaps not a model citizen. Most of what follows shows how this came to be the case. Edward was brought up by his novel-writing single mother in Victorian England. His father has passed away. After a mostly quiet and unremarkable childhood Edward is sent off to school where as a lover of books he thrives and he first encounters the young main who will become the chief adversary of his life. Edward is dismissed from school in what will become just one of many wrongs against him, that shape the adult he becomes. Upon the death of Edward's mother he discovers her diaries and among them a secret that has been kept from Edward all his life, that of his birth. Thus Edward's quest begins, that to claim what is rightfully his and which will define his every action for the rest of his life.

So did I like this book? I did. The book feels very true to its period, the mid 1850's. Edward is an interesting character, on the one hand we know from the start he is a murderer, but on the other he is a great bibliophile, charming, and on some level I did agree he had been greatly wronged. As a reader it feels very strange to have sympathy for this vindictive and at times deranged man, but that is a credit to the author. The novel picks up speed, and the last 200 pages I found to be very compelling reading that I flew through. There is a twist at the end, one that I saw coming. I'm not sure if reading the description of the sequel gave it away or it just became obvious to me that things were going too well. Speaking of the sequel, it is titled The Glass of Time, and I understand that it picks up 20 years after this book ends. I am really intrigued by the description and in fact, it is what led me to read this book first. I'll certainly be reading it one of these days.

Now, to a totally different subject.

I've never been a watcher of Dancing With the Stars but one of the current contestants has captured my interest. Check out this dance which begins about 1 minute 50 seconds into the video. I'm speechless. And I love that song. Swoon.

15 comments:

Melissa - Shhh I'm Reading said...

I've heard mixed reviews of this one, and have been hesitant to pick it up based on its size. I'm glad to hear you enjoyed it though.

Teresa said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed this. It was one of my favorite reads last year. (Thick Victorian novels are kind of my thing.) The sequel is also very, very good.

bermudaonion said...

I'm glad you enjoyed the book. I am totally addicted to DWTS and Gille is my pick to win the whole thing. I may have to rent Sex and the City just to see him in it.

Ti said...

I loved The Meaning if Night and reviewed it here:

http://bookchatterandotherstuff.blogspot.com/2008/10/meaning-of-night-by-michael-cox.html

The publisher sent the sequel to me but I have yet to read it. I think Cox did a better job of depicting rivalry than Simmons did in Drood. I kept comparing the two to each other in my head.

Fyrefly said...

I listened to this book about a year ago (review here). I really liked it, but I'm glad I listened to it - I think trying to read all 700 pages of that prose would have broken me - or at least my wrists. :)

J.Danger said...

Wow. You have me interested. I love the cover, AND the first line!

Tara said...

Melissa, it is definitely a commitment sort of book! If you like this genre, you might like this.

Teresa, Victorian-period books are a favorite of mine as well. Glad to hear that you liked the sequel. I'm waiting for the paperback.

bermudaonion, he is HOT! I hope Gilles wins the entire thing, if only so I can see him dance some more.

Ti, I even commented on you post! It looks like I was contemplating this back then. Your review is excellent.

Fyrefly, this was definitely a *heavy* book! Your review is fantastic - thanks for pointing it out. You're so right about there being no one to root for - they were all horrible!

J.Daner, the cover is really perfect for this.

Karen said...

I have seen this one around and I have been tempted to pick it up so many times because I love books set in this time period. I might pick it up at the library and see how I go. I have Drood waiting for me too but it is one chunky book and looks a little daunting!!

Staci said...

Your review has made me really intrigued and interested enough to seriously consider reading this huge book!!

jennysbooks said...

I have this out of the library right now! I am so, so excited to read it. It looks like totally my kind of book.

Tara said...

Karen, I also love this time period and am always drawn to it. Drood is huge! I look at it, and always put it back.

Staci, oh good! I'm glad to hear it. I'm okay with longer books, but I like to have something shorter going at the same time.

jennysbooks, you do?! Great! I can't wait to hear your thoughts on it.

Danielle said...

I have this book, too, and am waiting for the right mood to read it. I've heard lots of good things about it. I read a bunch of books set in Victorian times earlier this year and will likely get back to the period eventually this year.

Literary Feline said...

I really like the cover of this one, and it sounds intriguing. And what an interesting idea for narration! I am glad you ended up liking it, Tara. Thanks for the great review!

Cath said...

Another book added to the 'keep an eye out for' list. Sounds very good!

Tara said...

Danielle, sadly it looks like its author Michael Cox has died. Sad news about a talented man. I think you will like this one.

Literary Feline, the cover is perfect! It's very well done...just very descriptive and long. I look forward to the sequal.

Cath, yes, keep your eye out for this one. It was a good read.