Customer Reviews


315 Reviews
5 star:
 (130)
4 star:
 (48)
3 star:
 (56)
2 star:
 (43)
1 star:
 (38)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I Thoroughly Enjoyed This
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...
Published 1 month ago by M. Dowden

versus
288 of 307 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 11 months ago by MisterHobgoblin


‹ Previous | 1 232 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

9 of 9 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
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)   
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'.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


288 of 307 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
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


100 of 110 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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars very heavy going, 4 Jun 2014
By 
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Luminaries (Kindle Edition)
I struggled about a quarter of the way through this book before my Kindle randomly broke - (the screen went.) Anyway, it saved me having to wade any further through this tedious novel. I did a quick look at the Wikipedia entry and apparently it's just a shaggy dog story with no particular plot of end point anyway so glad I didn't waste any more time. I know this has won much acclaim so I am clearly in the wrong in my opinion but it just did not make me want to read any further.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1.0 out of 5 stars I did not like this book at all and struggled to continue reading ..., 22 July 2014
By 
S. Campbell - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Luminaries (Paperback)
I did not like this book at all and struggled to continue reading it. It was chosen by my book club and so I had committed myself to finishing it, and carried it on a trip abroad with me, in spite of the fact that it had to go as hand luggage due to its enormous size and weight and so it had supplanted other more interesting books. I didn't buy the Kindle version as I thought it would be impossible to page back in such an enormous tome.
The style is pseudo-Dickensian, the enormous cast of characters is not - they are uninteresting run of the mill characters living dull lives in 19th century provincial New Zealand - yes, for all I know - an accurate description of an early European gold digging settlement - but far less interesting than, for instance Kate Grenville's 'The Secret River' (about early settles in Australia). Relationships with Maori people are tantalisingly unexplored and speech in (I assume accurate) Maori language is not translated. If Catton knows Maori language, why not use it and offer a translation? I fear that this is only one example of a conceit which neither furthers the plot, enhances the style, nor endears the reader.
Why the inexplicable astrology? Why the laboured sentences? Why the detailed description of the mind-set of each character before they have entered the action? Why the pseudo-Victorian summary of each chapter before it starts ('In which the lovers sleep through much commotion'... )? These are very irritating; they fail to stimulate curiosity and seem a very contrived and pointless device - just get on with it, for heaven's sake, this has gone on for long enough!
I became quite vindictive before page 200 (I was struggling long before that) with another 600 pages to go. Meanly, I relished the anachronisms (ha! I am sure Dickens never said 'That will do just fine' or 'not on my watch'). The author has a wonderful vocabulary, there was no need for me to be picky about anachronisms. But I was exasperated: the style is heavy, some sentences are unwieldy, so ponderous that you are distracted from the message into wondering again 'Why did no-one stop her?'
I admire the author's tenacity, imagination, historical research skills. In many ways I think she may be a very gifted writer. But this one is not for me - it's far too long and the story isn't interesting enough to carry that (metaphorical and literal) weight. I was bored to distraction.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Size ain't everything!, 19 Feb 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Luminaries (Kindle Edition)
I LOVE reading and I love reading a challenging, complex novel - this is neither ! It is tedious, dull and never ending , The Booker prize winners have often been criticised for being pompous and highly over rated , I have read many and never felt that to be true until reading The Luminaries! What angers me most about this book is that the story is so simple - it just does not justify over 800 pages.And " simple" can be good but in this case its just deadly dull. The characters are uninteresting and the plot just drifts about getting nowhere. Also each chapter has a heading which is suppose to have some significance to the Zodiac and this is where the pretentiousness really comes in. Sadly it's not even a book to hate - its too boring for that. I refused to give up so read to the very last page - don't know about 50 Shades Of Grey this is 800 Pages Of White !!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


57 of 69 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Luminaries - Eleanor Catton, 21 Aug 2013
By 
RachelWalker "RachelW" (England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Luminaries (Hardcover)
It's a while since I've read such a lengthy book with such a labyrinthine plot. I confess, at times I was confused and gave up trying to hold all the pieces together in my head and just enjoyed the story as it unfolded, which is nevertheless a rich enjoyment, here. Catton does several things incredibly well in this novel: moving her plot along; narrative structure; dialogue; and reader engagement. The plotting is rather obviously the standout achievement (even if at times I let it get away from me), however the intricate way the plot is constructed around the 12 + characters, each of whom has their own part to play and own history to bring, which intermingles with the influence of the characters, is brilliant. I wasn't so sure, though, about the zodiacal conceit. Not really sure what exactly that adds, or whether it was just intended as frill. I must also admit to feeling that it ends rather more with w whimper than a bang, as several events we've already been told about earlier on in the book, are narrated again first-hand, as it were.

However, overall this is a very impressive novel and I would certainly recommend it. It's rare to come across a writer nowadays who attempts something like this, a big doorstop of a book with a Wilkie-Collins-esque maze of a plot.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2.0 out of 5 stars Finished!!! (At last!! ) The ..., 19 July 2014
By 
R. Westall "Library Lady" (Essex, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Luminaries (Kindle Edition)
Finished!!! (At last!!) The book was well written but that - in my opinion - was its saving grace. Do I understand the story? No. Do I care? No! How it won the Man Booker prize is a mystery to me - there is no comparison between it and the - equally complex and lengthy - books by Hilary Mantel. I almost felt that the judges were having a laugh at our expense - 'let's see what we can make them read??' I am sure if I come back to reread this at some future date I will unravel the mystery - but to be honest life is too short. Sorry, this really didn't work for me. Too many characters, too much time shifting - why can't authors start at the beginning and work their way to the end? Too many erudite observations on the lunar cycle - and what that had to do with the price of fish escapes me also! Too many date coincidences - albeit a year apart. By all means give it a go - if only to prove me wrong - but honestly!!!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A masterful achievement, 5 Nov 2013
This review is from: The Luminaries (Hardcover)
The Luminaries is a wonderful book. I wasn't sure what to expect, but the from the first page on you're drawn into an unknown world beautifully painted and completely believable.

The structure of the book is so original, and the breadth of characters and story-telling gives the reader multiple perspectives on the same story, each character building on the story of the previous one.

It's a very ambitious book and the writer has clearly researched and explored the world of 19th century New Zealand, I felt from the very first pages that the picture she paints was both imaginative and accurate and immediately I wanted to know more about those early days of settlement, the towns, the inns, the men, the women that made up the town of Hokitika.

From the bedrooms to the bar and from the opium dens to the courthouse Eleanor Catton paints the most wonderful and vivid picture, that you felt you could see, smell and touch the whole environment.

The story-telling isn't so much about what happens and why, but more it's about the pleasure the reader gets from understanding how it happens, the links between the characters, skilfully revealed over the course of the book.

A great read and highly recommended.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It's cleverness doesn't overcome its length., 14 Jun 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Luminaries (Kindle Edition)
Ostensibly this is a sort of costume drama whodunnit - a faux-Victorian mystery about a dead hermit, a missing-presumed-dead prospector, a loveable prostitute and a villainous ship's captain set during the New Zealand goldrush.

But really, it's a partly successful exercise in literary style. In this respect it's fairly clever - the mechanism by which the chapter lengths wane, the repeated retelling and reinterpretation of the same stories to construct different narratives from them, the elaborate astrological framework.

It's not enough to make a really successful novel though. The story is a fairly thin bit of melodrama, there is a large cast of characters, each of them a cardboard cut-out, the prose is deliberately mock-Victorian which, while relevant to the conceit, I found intermittently annoying and the book is very long. It's not that long because there is a lot of content, but as an artefact of the literary trickery that is going on. This is particularly apparent in the very long (about half the book) first chapter.

Persevering with it does lead to some reward, and it is clearly a skillful piece of work, but I'm not sure it repays the effort it requires.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 232 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

The Luminaries
The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton (Paperback - 3 April 2014)
3.85
In stock
Add to basket Add to wishlist
Only search this product's reviews