The body count quickly mounts in this engrossing sequel to the thrilling faux Victorian confessional novel, The Meaning of Night. Another well-deserved WOW is in order, even more so because careful readers will undoubtedly solve several (many, even?) of the whodunit-who’s-really-who clues early on, but that knowledge will surprisingly not deter you from reading every page because the twisted storytelling is really that good.
Glass begins 22 years after E.G. writes his final letter to his former employer in Night. In the fall of 1876, 19-year-old Esperanza Alice Gorst of Paris arrives in Evenwood to serve as the 26th Baroness Tansor’s personal maid. Raised with every privilege including a superior literary education, Esperanza is far overqualified to be a servant, but as an orphan, she has a perfectly plausible story about her fallen station that Lady Tansor and her two sons can easily believe. Esperanza’s arrival sets in motion the carefully laid plans of her Parisian guardian, referred to mysteriously as the “Great Task.”
As continental missives arrive regularly with new instructions, Esperanza diligently records her progress in her Book of Secrets. Her relationship with the Baroness quickly develops into something far more intimate than that of servant/employer, even as she’s repeatedly told that the older woman is her greatest enemy. She makes quick friends among the staff, save for the lurking Mrs. Battersby, and establishes close but contrasting relationships with both the Baroness’ sons. Yes, the plot thickens oh so very quickly!
Like its prequel Night, Glass is populated by a multifarious cast of characters – a greedy solicitor, an armless man on a bridge, a lavender-drunk mentally challenged son, a helpful coachman to appear put of the fog just at the right moment, hired murderous thugs, and so many more – each with head-spinning secrets waiting to be untangled by the tenacious Esperanza. To read both titles, one right after the other, is the recommended literary path, but Glass also works as a standalone novel (which, most likely, will lead you right back to Night).
Go ahead, brew yourself a pot of strong tea and indulge … and make sure to savor. Alas, no more Duport-tales are forthcoming, as their creator Michael Cox sadly passed away in 2009. A selfish sniff, sniff indeed.
Tidbit: Check out this surprising serendipity … So Josephine Bailey splendidly narrates all 18-plus hours of Esperanza’s saga. Bailey is also the expert narrator (and the best part by far) of the over-long Gemma Doyle Trilogy by Libba Bray. How surprised was I to hear Bailey utter the name “Circe” (the trilogy’s evil threat) and the words “rebel angels” (the title of book 3) during her narration of Glass! Talk about déjà vu moments!