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The Luminaries Paperback – 3 Apr 2014


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Product details

  • Paperback: 848 pages
  • Publisher: Granta (3 April 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 184708432X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847084323
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 4.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (535 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,972 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

The Luminaries is an impressive novel, captivating, intense and full of surprises. --Times Literary Supplement

The Luminaries is a breathtakingly ambitious 800-page mystery with a plot as complex and a cast as motley as any 19th-century doorstopper. That Catton's absorbing, hugely elaborate novel is at its heart so simple is a great part of its charm. Catton's playful and increasingly virtuosic denouement arrives at a conclusion that is as beautiful as it is triumphant. --Daily Mail

It is awesomely - even bewilderingly - intricate. There's an immaculate finish to Catton's prose, which is no mean feat in a novel that lives or dies by its handling of period dialogue. It's more than 800 pages long but the reward for your stamina is a double-dealing world of skullduggery traced in rare complexity. Those Booker judges will have wrists of steel if it makes the shortlist, as it fully deserves. --Evening Standard

Eleanor Catton is nothing if not ambitious. Her latest novel, longlisted for this year's Man Booker prize, is an 828-page blockbuster. With astonishing intricacy and patient finesse, Catton brings to life the anomalous nature of 19th-century New Zealand. --Sunday Times

Expansive and quite superb. Catton writes with real sophistication and intelligence... with intricate plotting and carefully wrought scenes. --Scotsman

Every sentence of this intriguing tale set on the wild west coast of southern New Zealand during the time of its goldrush is expertly written, every cliffhanger chapter-ending making us beg for the next to begin. The Luminaries has been perfectly constructed as the consummate literary page-turner. --Guardian

An intellectual deconstruction and a remarkable act of literary ventriloquism that truly feels as if it has been written in the same spirit as its antecedents. Although I felt the need to gallop through the book in pursuit of some answer that would satisfy my increasingly painful curiosity, I found myself frequently slowing down to savour Catton's characterisations and gentle wit. The Man Booker judges have really struck gold. --Sunday Express

For the scale of her ambition and the beauty of its execution, somebody should give that girl a medal. --Lucy Daniel, Daily Telegraph

Carefully executed, relentlessly clever, easy to read… Catton sustains a human comedy that sweeps through the hope, the mud, the lies and the secrecy underlying gold fever. It is not so much a morality play as an astute celebration of the power of the story. --Irish Times<br --Paperback review, Sunday Herald

'The 2013 Man Booker prize-winner is, even in paperback, a hefty tome. Catton's irresistibly intricate plot makes the pages fly by. Snappy dialogue, crisp humour and grand vision sets this far above its rivals' ***** --Paperback review, Daily Telegraph

'Truly dazzling' --Paperback review, Sunday Herald

Addictive [and] very clever. (The Times)

A breathtakingly ambitious mystery ... Catton's playful and increasingly virtuosic denouement arrives at a conclusion that is as beautiful as it is triumphant. (The Daily Mail)

A dream novel: stellar in every way. (The Economist)

'A book to curl up with and devour, intricately plotted and extravagantly described, a pastiche of the Victorian sensation novel in the same smart yet playful vein as Sarah Waters.' (The Guardian)

An immense feat of structuring and plotting which means that this novel starts as a gentle stroll and ends with the exhilarating sense of running downhill ... Ambitious, intricate, spectacular' --Independent

'I enjoyed The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton's game of literary Cluedo so much I had to ration myself to 50 pages a day' --'Book of the Year', Lucy Hughes-Hallett, Observer

Review

‘Addictive [and] very clever.’ (The Times)

‘A breathtakingly ambitious mystery ... Catton's playful and increasingly virtuosic denouement arrives at a conclusion that is as beautiful as it is triumphant.’ (The Daily Mail)

‘A dream novel: stellar in every way.’ (The Economist)

'A book to curl up with and devour, intricately plotted and extravagantly described, a pastiche of the Victorian sensation novel in the same smart yet playful vein as Sarah Waters.' (The Guardian)

‘An immense feat of structuring and plotting which means that this novel starts as a gentle stroll and ends with the exhilarating sense of running downhill ... Ambitious, intricate, spectacular.’ (The Independent) --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

370 of 394 people found the following review helpful By MisterHobgoblin TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 27 Aug. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The Luminaries is a tale of lies and deceit, fraud and vengeance, set amongst the goldfields of Western New Zealand in the 1860s. It was a time when men had dreams of getting rich very quickly based as much on luck as on hard work. But just as some are content to rely on the odds, others are willing to change the odds in their favour by nefarious means.

So when Walter Moody, a recent Scottish émigré, accidentally gatecrashes a clandestine meeting of twelve local businessmen, he is drawn into their various shady dealings. There is gold lost and found; a missing man; a dead drunk; a suicidal prostitute and a very sinister, scar-faced sea captain. There are tensions between the white settlers and the Chinese camp. Oh, and there is a token Maori. The writing, for the most part, is really good. The setting is conveyed well and the reader feels fully transported through space and time into a complex and authentic world.

But, and it's a big But, the involvement of so many players makes the novel far too complicated and grinds the pace down to a glacial speed. Every player has to have a relationship with each of the other players, resulting in many events being played out multiple times from multiple perspectives. Moreover, the use of reportage to create a non-linear time structure heightens the feeling of repetition. When it seems that the novel has finally moved on, it gets brought back again and again and again. The twelve main characters are supposed to represent different signs of the zodiac and perhaps those who like astrology would recognise their traits and interactions. But for the lay reader, the characters seem rather indistinguishable and, frankly, not much more than a personification of their job.
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40 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Marius Gabriel TOP 500 REVIEWER on 1 Nov. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I had been greatly looking forward to reading this, but my experience with the book was somewhat akin to that of a swimmer who plunges eagerly into a river, but finds the opposite bank a lot further away, and the river a lot deeper, than first appeared... and the whole idea of making the crossing comes to lose its appeal.

It's not that it's a bad book. It's a beautifully-written pseudo-Victorian mystery, with a strong sense of time and place. Eleanor Catton's "The Rehearsal" was a very promising debut, flawed by over-complexity and over-ambitiousness. The problems of that book, far from being resolved, have been greatly compounded in "The Luminaries." It's simply too long (some 850 pages), too complex and too dull for pleasurable reading. Pseudo-Victorian fiction is a morass for inexperienced writers, tending to the production of much scribbling and damn'd thick, square books -- whereas the Victorians themselves could often be very concise.

Praised to the skies by critics, garlanded with prizes, this is a book which most ordinary readers will struggle with, and the reviews here show that. There are too many characters to remember, too many conversations to follow, too many mysteries to unfold. In a novel that should have been highly original, the reader is left with an impression of endless repetition, of scenes that sprawl and loll, of a prolixity of characters too much alike to one another to inspire interest. Like many other reviewers, I was numbed by boredom, despite the best will in the world.

The book could have worked very well at half the length or less, and with half the characters or less. A great pity. But Eleanor Catton is a very young author who is still learning her craft, and I am confident that her prodigious talent will produce a far better and more enjoyable book very soon.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By L. Raikov on 25 Nov. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have an impression that by the end the author got tired of her novel, numerous characters and the need to tie up multiple story lines. Been tired, she didn't find it in herself to even properly complete the novel. She struggled for a bit and then simply dropped it letting the readers sort out lose ends and obvious contradictions. Ever diminishing chapters at the end with longish preambles look like a plan of a novel rather than the actual novel. I was mystified by the author's statement that "Carver found the bonanza at Wells' home", when the whole plot up until that chapter at the very end had been based on Carver not finding it! Or perhaps I was too tired to even look for the explanation. The Booker prize committee's logic, however, - that's a real mystery.
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127 of 140 people found the following review helpful By Kiwi on 26 Nov. 2013
Format: Hardcover
My dominant feeling on finishing this book was one of self-congratulation in actually having made it to the end. I have joined the elite band of readers who have done so, but I have not made it to the super-elite group who not only finished it, but understood it (but then I wonder if there are many at all in this category).
Normally, I would give Booker-prizewinners a wide berth, fearing over-intellectualism and incomprehensible story lines, but here was one with a crime/mystery theme, and by a New Zealand author, and I'm a NZer myself so, here we go...
For the first 150 pages, I thought my Booker prejudices were validated: hard going, put-downable, especially when I considered the hundreds of pages still to come. But I stuck with it and, very gradually, I found myself getting drawn in, with a mounting curiosity as to where it was going (as one might hope with a mystery). Things were looking up! (aided, I should say, means of one of the characters providing a 2-3 page summary of the story so far at the end of Part I, some 350 pages in - very helpful, this, you can look forward to it). And so on to the full 827 pages, but, after all that, to a damp-squibbish ending. Was that it? - after all that?
Notwithstanding the critics' accolades, I dare to say I can't understand how this story can be highly rated. The book is far, far, too long, moving at a glacial pace; the story is stupifyingly complex, propped up with far too many coincidental events and long-shot chance happenings; then there's the sleight-of-hand techniques such as two characters having the same name (or was it one character having two names? - can't remember, it's gone); and don't get me started on the resolution of the "missing bullet" saga - I'll keep this from you. Is this really award-winning stuff?
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