The Meaning of Night: A Confession by Michael Cox
Edward Glyver is the son of a drunken lout and a woman who pens sentimental novels to eke out an existence. His parents die young, his education is cut short, and his prospects are limited. None of this, however, should have happened to Edward Glyver.
Going through his mother's papers, Glyver stumbles onto some shocking truths that suggest he was born to something better than his current lot. As he seeks to uncover the truth about himself, Glyver learns that the source of all his troubles lies in the person of a former schoolmate, Phoebus Daunt. Glyver's quest for justice gradually turns vengeful, and leads our anti-hero from the opium dens and whorehouses of 19th century London to a pastoral estate called Evenwood, and back again.
Employing tropes from the gold standard in revenge stories,
The Count of Monte Cristo, Michael Cox's The Meaning of Night also throws in a few new twists. Rather than introducing us to a virtuous man gradually driven to obsession, the book begins right after Glyver has committed a seemingly senseless murder and is doped to the gills on laudanum. As the story progresses, however, Glyver emerges as a strangely sympathetic and admirably resourceful narrator.
The book is written as Glyver's own account, anonymously donated to the Cambridge University Library years after later and edited by a "Professor of Post-Authentic Victorian Fiction." Through the fictional editor's footnotes, Cox's knowledge of Victorian England shines, blending a good yarn with well-researched settings and figures from the period.
Don't be put off by the book's length - it's a surprisingly speedy read.
If you liked...: the setting and narrative structure of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke, the plot of Nicholas Nickleby, or like a good revenge story like The Count of Monte Cristo (or Revenge by Stephen Fry), this book is for you.