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3 of 3 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 16 months ago by Denis Vukosav

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361 of 384 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 18 months ago by MisterHobgoblin


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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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I've started so I'll finish......., 28 Feb. 2015
By 
Wynne Kelly "Kellydoll" (Coventry, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Luminaries (Paperback)
This ambitious novel of over 800 pages is set in the gold rush of New Zealand in the 1860s. The complex plot involves stolen goods, stolen identities, greed, love, murder and retribution. The plotting is so intricate and linked to the signs of the zodiac and the astrological year – even to the extent of the chapters becoming shorter with the days…..

It starts with a meeting of twelve men (the twelve months of the year?) and they are joined by another man, Moody (thirteen lunar months?) I readily confess to not making head nor tail of the various charts and soon gave up trying to interpret them. The many press reviews of the book refer to it being “dazzling”, “irresistible” and “breathtaking”. I agree that the writing is good but the plotting is so complex it is hard to grasp and keep a track of. I only finished this book yesterday and already I would have a problem trying to explain the plot to someone. Another problem (for me) was that the characters were all a bit of a blur and I found it hard to differentiate between them. I had to keep reminding myself which one was Ah Souk and which Quee Long.

I am not averse to lengthy novels and have happily read my way through War and Peace, Middlemarch and The Goldfinch but I found The Luminaries a real slog.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Three times as long as it should have been, 12 Jan. 2015
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This review is from: The Luminaries (Kindle Edition)
I did not enjoy this book and only persisted as it was a book group choice. I found it long winded and not nearly interesting enough. Admittedly it was well written, but in no way did the story hold my attention. I cared for none of the characters.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Maybe I'm missing something but this for me is the ..., 21 Jan. 2015
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This review is from: The Luminaries (Kindle Edition)
Maybe I'm missing something but this for me is the most uninteresting book I have tried to read in a long time. If it was a library book it would have been returned ages ago.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Got to the end......but was it worth it?, 31 Jan. 2015
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This review is from: The Luminaries (Kindle Edition)
I managed to finish this book and I enjoyed it up to a point. It was however very complicated and I found myself re reading many parts to make sure I had grasped what was going on. Found the ending very disappointing.......the author just seemed to wind up as quickly as possible what had been a very long and drawn out plot. Ended up thinking ' oh that's it then is it?
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Tedious and probably overhyped, 23 April 2014
By 
jfp2006 (PARIS/France) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Luminaries (Paperback)
The Luminaries broke two records when it was given the Man Booker prize last year: the longest novel, and the youngest writer, to win the prize.
To my mind, it's one of the most rambling and most poorly constructed novels to have won, and Eleanor Catton is, I'm sorry to have to say, rather out of her depth.
The whole zodiac conceit, for one thing, is gratuitous and decidedly unconvincing. The idea is that twelve "stellar" characters are each associated with an astrological sign, while seven more important characters are presented (in the basically unhelpful "character chart" at the beginning of the novel - the map is even more unhelpful by the way) as "planetary". Then there is a "terra firma" character who, we are informed before the novel starts, is "deceased".
No clear justifications are given for these associations - but the way the book has been praised by sundry reviewers creates the impression that the reader is somehow not clever enough if he doesn't understand what's going on. Whereas, as far as I can see, it is Eleanor Catton trying to be too clever for her own good (and certainly for this particular reader's patience).
Even without the astrological dimension, the book is poorly put together. The unwitting intrusion of one character, Walter Moody, at the start, on what is presented as a top secret meeting of the twelve "stellar" characters, creates the impression that the reader will be guided by Moody's impressions, discoveries and interpretations as the novel develops. But then the different juxtaposed narratives become increasingly confused, and by the end Moody has disappeared altogether, without ever having become a convincing character in any way. Catton also tries, but again fails as a result of being inconsistent, to use an omniscient "we" (also definitively abandoned without any warning...)
As for the writing... Catton is sometimes able to evoke the 19th-century New Zealand setting in a convincing away. But she is at least equally capable of horrific linguistic clangers:
"It was therefore with a very well-concealed ignorance that Moody played interlocutor to Gascoigne, and Clinch..." (Play interlocutor?) She uses the non-existent "uncourteous" (but also the correct adjective "discourteous", later on). And then right at the end of the acknowledgements, she reserves a special word for, presumably, her partner: "Thank you - I to Thou". There may of course be a private allusion in that "Thou" (capital letter?) instead of "thee"; but it seems more likely that Catton has never studied a line of Shakespeare and does not know the difference between the two forms. And, in that case, it was rather a perilous exercise to attempt an 830-page pastiche of a 19th-century novel.
I regret the time and effort (and money) I expended on The Luminaries. If you start having misgivings by the time you get to page 50, take my advice: cut your losses. There are far better novels out there.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Whodunit For Astrologers That Won The Booker, 22 Mar. 2014
By 
I. D. R. Varley "iandavidrobertvarley" (Derby, Derbyshire, England, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Luminaries (Hardcover)
I managed to read all of 'The Luminaries'! Can I have a medal please? I learned something of New Zealand and it's history, so it wasn't a complete waste of time. Also, I'm willing to concede that the astrological stuff went over my head, hence my willingness to give it two stars rather than one.

'The Luminaries' is basically a pretentious whodunit written in a mannered and stilted way to make it read as if it was written about a hundred and fifty years ago. Whodunits are usually shallow with mostly flat characterization, this being no exception, so the author has overlaid it with gratuitous astrological nonsense to give it the appearance of having some depth. Unless you're an astrology expert guff like 'Mercury In Sagittarius' won't mean anything to you and Eleanor Catton ain't letting on what it means so you have to look it up. I did look it up along with other esoteric supernatural rubbish about the significance of ecliptics and true nodes that appears in the book's titles and I could see how some of it related vaguely to the story. However, apart from a brief mention of there not being a full moon in one particular February in 1866, it's hard to see how relevant astrology is to the story. None of the characters are astrologers. It does provide the author with a way of constructing the story in a modern, aesthetically pleasing but nevertheless fractured way but personally I'd rather read a good story told messily than a mediocre story told elegantly. 'The Luminaries' is the latter. The only interesting and, to my mind, properly formed characters are Anna and Lydia. All the men are two dimensional. Much has been made of the author's youth. I think her youth really shows in a bad way. I think she's a very immature writer.

Interestingly, the gold paint on the cover wore off while I was reading it so now it says 'The Minaries, Eanor Catton'! Appropriate for a story about a gold rush, I guess.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Superb to awful., 11 Feb. 2015
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I kept changing my mind about this book - superb, awful - superb, awful - superb because the story is unique, a mysterious death set in the gold rush of 1865 New Zealand with a set of 19 characters worthy of Dickens, and because each of the 19 characters' dialogue is spot on, and because the writing style and insights into human nature are remarkably good - but awful because it is impossible to keep track of the each person's guilty connection to the dead man, Crosby Wells, and to their back stories. I struggled on because of my book group, otherwise I would have given up. The complex plot is almost impossible to unravel. In the end - awful.
Freak Out! My Life with Frank Zappa
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars " 'You tell me any old rubbish you like, and if you string it out until we ..., 19 Jan. 2015
By 
Jarah (London, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Luminaries (Paperback)
" 'You tell me any old rubbish you like, and if you string it out until we reach the junction at Kumara, then I shall count it as a very fine tale.' " (The Luminaries, page 713).
Clearly the Man Booker Prize judges felt the same way.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Far more enjoyable than its daunting reputation might suggest, 31 Aug. 2014
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This review is from: The Luminaries (Kindle Edition)
I approached this book with some degree of trepidation. Several reviews from hardened literary critics implied that while its technical merits made it worthy of its Booker Prize win, actually reading it was a bit of a hard slog, thanks to its length and its complex structure. It sat on my Kindle for several months, until, confronted with the prospect of a 27 hour plane journey, I decided that it was now or never.

From the first page, I was astonished by how much I enjoyed it, not in an cold, "appreciating great literature" sort of way, but simply in the sense of getting wrapped up in the plot, speculating about the mysteries and feeling strong emotions towards the characters. It was beautifully written, apeing a late Victorian style perfectly, but the story drew me in and kept me turning the pages as if it were the most salacious, trashy thriller. The plot is complex, featuring at least twenty fairly major characters, but while it requires a fair degree of concentration to keep track of everyone's comings and goings, I never felt lost or overburdened with detail, just fully immersed in a well-developed world.

It's a tricky tale to summarise, but basically, on the same night in a nineteenth-century goldmining town in New Zealand, a hermit dies alone, only for both a stash of gold and a long-lost wife to appear; a prostitute collapses from an apparent opium overdose and is arrested, and the richest man in town disappears. There are mysteries underlying all three of these events (and several others) and endless connections between these three characters and the rest of the sprawling cast. With so many characters, it's perhaps inevitable that some of them were more interesting and memorable than others, and that some of the supporting cast blurred into one slightly. But the best characters were very well done with some interesting nuances - and less nuanced, but just as enjoyable, was a wonderfully villainous sea captain.

I didn't know much more about the plot than the book's setting, and on paper, it wasn't a period or location that really appeared to me. However, the author really brings the town of Hotika to life and really piqued my interest in a piece of history I had no prior knowledge of. While the plot is mostly rooted in the gritty realism of life in a frontier town, there is also a slight touch of the paranormal, which I suspect some people will dislike, but which I quite enjoyed.

I'd heard that this book was heavily based around astronomy, another factor that seems to have daunted some critics and put off some readers. If you have no interest in the subject, then don't worry. The plot and the prose are perfectly enjoyable without this knowledge, and although the strange chapter titles and shortening chapters make you aware that something strange is going on, for the most part, it doesn't get in the way of the story, just leaves you with a vague sense that the author has probably pulled off something quite clever. I'm by no means an expert, but I had some interest in astronomy in my teens, and had just enough remembered knowledge to get something extra from the book. I'm sure that anyone who is genuinely knowledgable about the subject would be fascinated by the way it is handled. As far as I could tell, the idea is that some of the characters represent signs of the zodiac (I had fun guessing who was which, until I noticed there was actually a chart - woops) and some other represent the planets. Mostly, the planetary ones are the ones doing things and moving the plot along, while the stellar ones are caught in the fall out of their actions. I think the latter were acting according to the general attributes of their star sign, and also been affected by the position of the actual planets and stars on any given day. I suspect that a greater knowledge of astronomy would help to explain what sometimes feels like odd behaviour and U-turns on the part of certain characters, as well as some of the stranger coincidences and plot twists. To reiterate though, all this underlying cleverness doesn't get in the way of the story and it isn't necessary to even vaguely understand it in order to follow the plot.

The other noteworthy thing about this book is the structure. It's in twelve parts (presumably another reference to the signs of the zodiac). The first part has twelve chapters, the next eleven, and so on, until part twelve only has one chapter. At the same time, the chapters get notably shorter as the book goes on (part 1 finished 48% of the way through the book, according to my Kindle, part twelve is one page long) and though I didn't bother to count, I'm reliably informed that each is half the length of its predecessor. I didn't feel that this structure added much, but like the astronomy references, neither, for the most part, did it get in the way of the reading experience. My only complaint is that the book reaches its climax at the end of Part Five of twelve- (although to be fair, that is 90% of the way through the book). At that point, most of the mysteries are revealed and loose ends tied up. The following sections then go back in time to fill in some of the gaps. To some extent, this was interesting, but a lot of it felt like rehashing old ground or needlessly spelling out things that had been clearly implied beforehand. I was hoping that these flashbacks would put a new spin on events or characters, but with the exception of the interesting sections explaining how Anna (the prostitute mentioned above) came to be in her current situation, they felt extremely redundant and repetitive, which slightly dulled my love for the book. It felt like the one time the author really put structure over storytelling.

This book is undoubtedly long and clearly very cleverly written. But I'd emphasise once more that it's far more enjoyable, far more of a page-turner and a far easier read than either its length or its reputation would suggest. Marvel at its structure and style, puzzle out its astronomical mysteries or simply enjoy a riveting historical drama - whatever level you choose to read it on, I'd highly recommend this book.
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The Luminaries
The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton (Paperback - 3 April 2014)
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