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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Novel demanding due to its volume, but well-made and worth of your time
‘The Luminaries’ by Eleanor Catton is a demanding novel due to its volume, but a book whose quality certainly deserves your time.

With its more than 800 pages, ‘The Luminaries’ is the longest novel that had won ‘Man Booker Prize’ in its long history, what author achieved few days ago.

Its story begins when a young...
Published 13 months ago by Denis Vukosav

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338 of 360 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A slave to its structure
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...
Published 16 months ago by MisterHobgoblin


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338 of 360 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A slave to its structure, 27 Aug 2013
By 
MisterHobgoblin (Melbourne) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Luminaries (Kindle Edition)
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. The novel may be long (830ish pages) but is so full of plotting that there is little real space for characterisation. This can result in people forming alliances or breaking pacts for no obvious reason. We find out what people do, but have little insight into why they do them. OK, some of the main players (apparently the planetary and terra firma characters) have some slight backstory, but the others (the stellar ones) simply are as they are.

The pace does pick up eventually - after about two thirds of the novel - but what is not apparent from the page count is that this is actually the denouement. The many subsequent sections seem to be some kind of zodiacal obligation telling the reader nothing new and presenting historical events that had already been inferred. Moreover, as the sections wend their way to an end, the brief introductions to the chapters (as one finds in Victorian novels) grow longer and start to carry information in their own right, leaving the body of the section to carry only snippets of mercurial dialogue. This was necessary because each section had to be exactly half the length of the previous one (count the words if you don't believe me). This really is not a satisfactory way to end a plot-driven novel of this length.

I am sure there is a good story buried somewhere in The Luminaries. But just like the thin person struggling to emerge from every fat person, sometimes dieting in not enough and bariatric surgery is needed.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Suffering from giantism, a huge, worthy book that should not have been so cumbersome., 1 Nov 2014
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This review is from: The Luminaries (Kindle Edition)
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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117 of 130 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars My dominant feeling on finishing this book was one of ..., 26 Nov 2013
By 
Kiwi (Surrey, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Luminaries (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?
For me, the star of the book is the town of Hokitika and, in this aspect, I am fulsome in my praise for Catton's description of the era of the 19th-century gold rush in NZ's South Island, particularly on the West Coast; it's highly informative and enjoyable in that respect. It's a pity it's taken such a cumbersome vehicle to convey this.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Novel demanding due to its volume, but well-made and worth of your time, 9 Nov 2013
By 
Denis Vukosav - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Luminaries (Hardcover)
‘The Luminaries’ by Eleanor Catton is a demanding novel due to its volume, but a book whose quality certainly deserves your time.

With its more than 800 pages, ‘The Luminaries’ is the longest novel that had won ‘Man Booker Prize’ in its long history, what author achieved few days ago.

Its story begins when a young man named Walter Moody comes by ship to gold mining town in New Zealand.
When he will stay to the nearest hotel to the quay, he will come to a meeting of twelve local men who had met due to the mystery and some even illegal incidents that happened in their town.
Two weeks before, in one night known hermit and drunk died in a shack that overlooks the town, young man who became rich in gold mine disappeared and ship's captain of bad reputation cancelled all of his business.
Known prostitute was arrested, due to her connection to all three of them...

Each of them twelve will tell his story about these events to Walter and this is how the story will proceed, while reader will find out what brought each of these men to this gathering.
Walter will also tell his story, that will eventually show also related to the other stories, although at first it doesn't seem so...

A novel is divided into twelve chapters, one a bit smaller in its length to the previous, after some time had passed between them, explaining a bit more meeting that happened in first chapter.

It is evident that in novel construction author deliberately used a lot of numerology, astrology and symbolism in the way that when reader will finish 12th chapter she/he will be again at the novel beginning, and what was then a bit less unclear will now be fully understandable.
The novel is written in somehow 19th century writing style that is the time when the described events took place, and this was a good choice for author making whole story more convincing due to its above-mentioned connection with astrology and numerology.

And although is hard to tell anything about its plot and in same time not spoiling the adventure of discovering for each reader her/himself, I can only say that its story is bent, and enables reader that with each new chapter to find some new information that will explain something from the past or maybe drag us in the wrong direction.

At the end when all the events will be explained we will realize that both our and novel characters assumption were probably wrong, and its end will be more or less surprise for most of readers.
Good or bad, I will leave that for each reader to decide, but this is a book that, although demanding, due to its quality is worth of your time.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars i liked the way it read as a modern day Wilkie ..., 11 Aug 2014
This review is from: The Luminaries (Kindle Edition)
I was bought this as a retirement gift and you certainly need plenty of time to read it. Not one to read in bite sized chunks! On balance, I think the considerable commitment needed to plow through this book is worthwhile but it is far too long and I found the storyline confusing. I had to search for an online synopsis to sort out several key facts! I gather from reading the reviews that this is sort of the point but I'm afraid I just found it frustrating. i liked the way it read as a modern day Wilkie Collins and will have a go at her first book which sounds interesting. I can see why it won the Booker Prize - very original and clever, but in my opinion far too clever!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Dull, 12 Aug 2014
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This review is from: The Luminaries (Kindle Edition)
Don't whatever you do be tempted to read this on kindle. The whole experience felt like trying to chew through a piece of carpet. Very tough going. So much hype about a novel that as far as I can tell is all about its "clever" construction leaving the reader thoroughly dissatisfied with the content. Since the chapters follow the phases of the moon on a kindle this just compounds the feeling that the reader is getting nowhere fast as the percentage marker just does not seem to move regardless of the number of pages that have been waded through. Even by the end as the chapters become shorter there is no great feeling of being any nearer to making sense of what is actually quite a dull story line. Repetition is just tedious as the same scenario is told through so many different characters who all supposedly have the personality traits associated with their star sign. Emperor's new clothes if you ask me. My entire Book Group could not slate it enough!
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I Thoroughly Enjoyed This, 16 Jun 2014
By 
M. Dowden (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Luminaries (Paperback)
Originally I was never going to read this book, after all it was the Booker winner and one person had led me to believe that it was about astrology. With that in mind I was rather dumbfounded why it has been one of the top ten bestselling books at my local bookshop for quite some time, and thus decided to give it the benefit of the doubt and actually read it. I did find that it does contain astrology but not in the way that you may think; it is in the charts at the beginning of each section, which in a way puts certain constraints on what can be narrated in each part, which does lead to a certain amount of repetition throughout the book.

I was delighted though to find when I started reading this that it is in actual fact a pastiche of `Sensation Fiction'. The `Sensation Novel' was in its day hugely popular and ultimately evolved into thrillers, psychological crime novels, etc, and indeed the date that this novel is set coincidentally happens to be when this type of novel was extremely popular.

When Walter Moody comes to land late one rainy night he finds himself accidentally walking into a room in the hotel where a private meeting between twelve men has been going on. Moody doesn't realise at first, but gradually the others draw him into what they have met about. Not all these men are white like him, because there is one Maori and two Chinese men present as well. As the people at this meeting begin to tell Moody of what has been happening it seems that he is being inundated with crimes. There is a dead man, a missing man, the mysterious appearance and disappearance of gold, blackmail, adultery, deceit and fraud. Obviously a lot has been going on and Moody is now caught up in it all. As the story unfolds we see more clearly what has been going on and who is responsible for what, and why.

I know some have complained on here that there are too many characters, but in fact it is about a dozen or so people that you have to keep an eye on, which when you think about it isn't that much, after all most people on here probably work with at least that many people each day, and know what is going on with them. The story itself is relatively easy to understand, but unless you are into 19th Century literature's popular `Sensation Novels' you may find yourself getting bored in places, or confused as to why certain things happen. Of course on top of that using astrology to in a way plot how this unfolds with regards to the characters is quite novel and one wonders whether Eleanor Catton is just showing off, but it does work.

In all I am now very glad that I have read this as I was caught up in the story pretty quickly and thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. This most definitely won't be for everyone, but for quite a few people I would say that they will enjoy this, especially if they love `Sensation Novels'.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well worth the initial struggle to keep reading., 30 Aug 2014
This review is from: The Luminaries (Paperback)
It has taken me four days to read this remarkable and inspirational novel. At first it was hard going and I was tempted to abandon it. However I dislike starting a book and then giving up. I was determined not to be defeated. It was on page 91 (paperback edition) that I became hooked on the story. The Chaplain, Cowell Devlin, discovers the charred remains of a piece of paper on which is written that two thousand pounds are to given to Anna Wetherall. However the document is missing a signature to make it legal and binding. Anna is a woman of the night, a prostitute, but also an attractive and fascinating young lady.

The narrator of the story is a certain Walter Moody who has arrived in Hokitika,New Zealand, to prospect for gold.
Whilst on his way, hopefully to make a fortune, Moody meets up with a fellow prospector, Paddy Ryan.

"How about we share our stories? Make the road." a little shorter that way...you go first," says Paddy Ryan. "give us a tale and spin it out, so we forget about our feet, and we don't notice that we're walking."...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 22 Nov 2014
This review is from: The Luminaries (Paperback)
Eleanor Catton is obviously a very talented writer, but this ambitious novel is a deeply unsatisfying read unless you enjoy astrological patterning and other devices more than a good story and characters with whom you feel engaged. I'm not afraid of a challenging read and will generally finish a book once I've started it, to give the writer every chance, but after 303 pages of this I began to groan - the style is excellent and I see the cleverness of the way it's constructed, but there's a fatal lack of interesting, distinctive characters. There's a piece of very basic advice for wannabe writers: plot should spring from character, rather than characters being shoehorned into a pre-formed plot. Here it feels as if the characters (often two-dimensional) and their actions only exist to fit the patterns. Catton isn't a wannabe but an accomplished writer, which makes it all the more disappointing. It feels mean to give such clever, complex writing only 2 stars, but the fact is that I can't finish it and don't like it, so I can't honestly give it more.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Sloppy and unfinished, 25 Nov 2014
By 
L. Raikov "Lo Ra" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Luminaries (Kindle Edition)
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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The Luminaries
The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton (Hardcover - 1 Aug 2013)
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