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The Luminaries Paperback – 1 Aug 2013

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Product details

  • Paperback: 848 pages
  • Publisher: Granta Books (1 Aug. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847088767
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847088765
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 5.2 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (569 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 96,839 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

Highly original, meticulously constructed, thematically convincing, this is a richly evocative mystery. --Good Book Guide

Wonderfully vivid… The Luminaries deserves to win the Man Booker Prize this year. The characters are so lush and the mystery is so complex. Usually I find that a novelist is either an exceptional writer or an exceptional storyteller, but rarely are they both. With this book Catton has proved, at least in my eyes, that she's the exception to the rule. --Booker Marks blog

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

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

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 mor --'Fiction of the Year', Economist

That someone should write this beautifully at 28 is the kind of thing that keeps my dentist busy replacing ground-down enamel but there's no denying that this nod to the Victorian mystery novel is a fantastic achievement in its own right - and a gripping read. --'Books of the year', Vice magazine

A good old-fashioned page-turner set in New Zealand goldrush... Its narrative structure, mirroring astrological movements in a beautifully-wrought minuet, really set it apart. --'Literary fiction of the year', Independent on Sunday --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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

3.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By William Peskett on 28 Feb. 2015
Format: Paperback
Brilliantly researched, The Luminaries held my attention (and closely too) for about 700 of its 830 pages. After that the book subsides into a frenetic series of chapters desperate to explain the excessively intricate plot but without any sort of proper resolution. Do the baddies (of pantomime proportions - scar on cheek for the man, leader-astray of virgins for the woman) get their comeuppance? Does the innocent observer Mr Moody find his fortune? We are never told. Apart from the ones that end up dead we aren't told how the characters come out of this complex tale.

Then there's the astrology. Astrological charts preface the sections and random-seeming titles head the chapters. What does Catton mean by this additional complication that she's not telling us? For me, who didn't 'get it' and who finds astrology as tedious as the spiritualism that makes a brief appearance in the book, this stuff was just annoying.

As the chapters get shorter, their introductory summaries (In which so-and-so happens) get longer until they burst out of their function and summarise a story which isn't told in the text. So at the end the book becomes shorthand as if Catton has got bored with the exercise and has suddenly realised how many pages she's racked up and wants to go down the pub.

The end of a novel is important - it's the final and most powerful impression the reader is left with. This is a book that really ducks the whole idea of an ending.

The book won the Booker without being the best novel of the year, not even the best on the short list and that's saying something.

Summary: I really enjoyed the build up but the conclusion was disappointing, no reward for wading though all those pages. Four stars for the bulk, one for the end, so three stars.
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376 of 400 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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43 of 46 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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