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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 12 months ago by Denis Vukosav

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335 of 357 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 15 months ago by MisterHobgoblin


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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliantly crafted novel, 3 Nov 2013
By 
C. A. Rushworth-little (Shropshire) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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This review is from: The Luminaries (Kindle Edition)
The novel could simply be regarded as an excellent whodunit but in fact the author uses this design to draw us into the lives and relationships of numerous characters. At times the plot seems Dickensian in its twists and turns but this is Dickens set in gold rush New Zealand with whores, Chinamen and dope smuggling adding colour to the intricate tapestry of the plot.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece Of Invention, 29 Oct 2013
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This review is from: The Luminaries (Hardcover)
`The Luminaries' by Eleanor Catton won the Man Booker Prize in 2013 and I can see why. From the first page it is clear the author possesses a maturity of style, a command of vocabulary and a refined power of description. Here, for example, is how she describes one trait of a leading character, Walter Moody, which was to serve him in good stead: `He presented himself in the manner of a discreet and quick-witted butler, and as a consequence was often drawn into the confidence of the least voluble of men, or invited to broker relations between people he had only lately met' (P. 4).
Walter joins twelve individuals discussing mysterious events in the New Zealand town of Hokitaka on 27 January 1866. Here are examples of how she describes some of these characters illustrating the author's powers of insight. `Charles Frost `...rarely laughed openly, and although his posture was languid and easy, he always seemed alert, as if perpetually mindful of some rule of etiquette that other men no longer observed'(P.171). Benjamin Lowenthal `... ceased to be able to distinguish between personal preference and moral imperative, and he ceased to accept that such a distinction was possible'(P.298). `Edgar Clinch had something of a circular character. He was both solicitous and self-doubting - attributes that, because they opposed one another, tended to engender in him a state of constant. anxious flux' (P.246). The others are given similar portraits which transform them into three-dimensional figures. There appears to be one exception - Francis Carver remains the dark figure of villainy, a monster hidden away to jump out as and when required.
The plot can be largely summed up in a few lines appearing on P. 342:
`The twelve men were united only by their association to the events of the 14th of January, upon which night Miss Wetherell nearly died, Crosbie Wells HAD died, Emery Staines had vanished, Francis Carver had sailed away, and Alastair Lauderback had arrived in town.'
Perhaps it isn't so simple after all and for two-thirds of the book the pace is casual, with most emphasis on the characters and their interplay. Then suddenly it quickens, culminating in a courtroom scene in which Walter Moody pulls out all the stops with the panache of a Perry Mason. The reader may see then how the different pieces of the puzzle fit together but not why. That is answered in the last third by a series of brief episodes from the past which unravel the characters of both Mrs. Wells and Miss Wetherell.
The last third of the book also enables the reader to appreciate the personality of Emery Staines who `was not a terribly good judge of character. He loved to be enchanted, and so was very often drawn to persons whose manner was suggestive of tragedy, romance and myth.' (P. 731). Therein, for me, lies the thread which binds the whole pattern together.
One last crime is never explained but may I suggest the reader examines Pages 697, 777 and 797 to find what I would consider to be the solution.
One point about the book vexed me and that is the stress given on astrology with charts and chapter-headings but which is never worked into the story - apart from the supposed horoscope link between two characters, who may share personality traits but whom life treats very differently.
Even so,, because of the quality of the writing and the plot and characterisation which kept me absorbed for hours, `The Illuminaries' is well worth 5 stars and I cannot recommend it highly enough
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Long and complicated, 26 Oct 2013
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Not a book easy to read on a Kindle as it is long and with a large cast of characters that is a bit hard to keep track of but worth the effort
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars luminaires, 23 Oct 2013
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This review is from: The Luminaries (Hardcover)
Unable to put down---- wonderful prose--keeping me guessing characters beautifully described wonderful book for a winters night
mystery and suspense
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 13 Sep 2014
This review is from: The Luminaries (Kindle Edition)
I read a lot and am not in the habit of 'giving up' on books, especially Booker winners. I therefore pressed on with this novel, despite not being quickly (or ever, it transpired) absorbed into the story. Although the historical setting of gold-rush New Zealand is an interesting and well-drawn one, I found the overall story's merits only worthy of a novel about quarter of its size. I therefore felt that I was being reluctantly dragged though the telling of this tale in a manner that was unnecessarily and pretentiously convoluted. The relationships and interactions between the many characters are confusing, and these characters are not developed to the extent that the reader is likely to care about them or their fates. I persevered with the novel because I believed that the story and characters would develop in a rich and surprising way and/ or that, although I hadn't enjoyed the story, that I would still be impressed with the overall accomplishment and 'cleverness' of the novel's achievement. Neither happened.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars, 15 Aug 2014
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Tiresome - needs a good slap
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5.0 out of 5 stars A great read., 6 Nov 2014
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This review is from: The Luminaries (Paperback)
Fascinating. A great read.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars, 17 Aug 2014
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This review is from: The Luminaries (Kindle Edition)
well written enjoyable read
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12 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Solid gold, 12 Oct 2013
This review is from: The Luminaries (Hardcover)
Twelve men meet at the Crown Hotel in Hokitika, New Zealand, in January, 1866. A thirteenth, Walter Moody, an educated man from Edinburgh who has come here to find his fortune in gold, walks in. As it unfolds, the interlocking stories and shifting narrative perspectives of the twelve--now thirteen--men bring forth a mystery that all are trying to solve, including Walter Moody, who has just gotten off the Godspeed ship with secrets of his own that intertwine with the other men's concerns.

This is not an important book. There is no magnificent theme, no moral thicket, no people to emancipate, no countries to defend, and no subtext to unravel. Its weightiness is physical, coming in at 832 pages. And yet, it is one of the most marvelous and poised books that I have read. Although I didn't care for the meandering rambling books of Wilkie Collins, I am reminded here of his style, but Catton is so much more controlled, and possesses the modern day perspective in which to peer back.

I felt a warmth and a shiver at each passing chapter, set during the last days of the New Zealand gold rush. Catton hooked me in in this Victorian tale of a piratical captain; a Maori gemstone hunter; Chinese diggers (or "hatters"); the search for "colour" (gold); séances; opium; fraud; ruthless betrayal; infidelity; a politician; a prostitute; a Jewish newspaperman; a gaoler; shipping news; shady finance; a ghostly presence; a missing man; a dead man; a wealth of hidden gold; and a spirited romance. And there's more between Dunedin and Hokitika to titillate the adventurous reader.

Primarily, THE LUMINARIES is an action-adventure, sprawling detective story, superbly plotted, where the Crown Hotel men try to solve it, while sharing secrets and shame of their own. There's even a keen courtroom segment later in the story. And, there are crucial characters that are not gathered in the Crown that night who link everyone together. The prostitute and opium addict, Anna Wetherell, is nigh the center of this story, as she is coveted or loved or desired by all the townspeople.

The layout of the book is stellar: the spheres of the skies and its astrological charts. You don't need to understand the principles and mathematics of astrology (I don't), but it is evident that knowledge of this pseudoscience would add texture to the reading experience, as it provides the structure and frame of the book. The characters' traits can be found in their individual sun signs (such as the duality of a Germini). The drawings of charts add to the mood, and the chapters get successively shorter after the long Crown chapter. The cover of the book illustrates the phases of the moon, from full moon to sliver, alluding to the waning narrative lengths as the story progresses.

"But onward also rolls the outer sphere--the boundless present, which contains the bounded past."

Take note of the cast list at the beginning, which is quite helpful for the initial 200 or 300 pages. With so many vivid characters coming at you at once, it is difficult at first to absorb. However, as the pages sail (and they will, if this appeals to you), you won't even need the names and professions. The story and its striking, almost theatrical players become gradually and permanently installed, thoroughly and unforgettably. From the scar on Captain Francis Carver's cheek, to the widow's garment on Anna Wetherell's gaunt frame, the lively images and descriptions animate this boisterous, vibrant story.

Catton is a master storyteller; she combines this exacting 19th century style and narrator--and the "we" that embraces the reader inside the tale--with the faintest sly wink of contemporary perspective. Instead of the authorial voice sounding campy, stilted, and antiquated, there is a fresh whiff of nuanced canniness, a knowing Catton who uncorks the delectable Victorian past by looking at it from the postmodern future.

You will either be intoxicated by this big brawl of a book, or weighed down in its heft. If you are looking for something more than it is, then look no further than the art of reading. There's no mystery to the men; Catton lays out their morals, scruples, weaknesses, and strengths at the outset. The women had a little poetic mystery to them, but in all, these were familiar players--she drew up stock 19th century characters, but livened them up, so that they leaped madly from the pages. There isn't much to interrogate except your own anticipation. If you've read COLOUR, by Rose Tremain, don't expect any similarities except the time, place, setting, and the sweat and grime of the diggers. Otherwise, the two books are alike as fish and feathers.

The stars shine bright as torches, or are veiled behind a mist, like the townspeople and story that behave under the various constellations. Catton's impeccably plotted yarn invites us to dwell in this time and place. At times, I felt I mined the grand nuggets of the story, and at other times, it blew away like dust.

"But there is no truth except truth in relation, and heavenly relation is composed of wheels in motion, tilting axes, turning dials; it is a clockwork orchestration that alters every minute, never repeating never still...We now look outward...we see the world as we wish to perfect it, and we imagine dwelling there."
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well written but dull, 24 May 2014
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This review is from: The Luminaries (Kindle Edition)
Could not get on with this book, put it down by page sixty, it seemed to ramble on. I was hoping for something to happen apart from men sitting around smoking cigars and rambling on about some boat. There is no doubt it is well written and eloquent. But, boring unless you like this type of old fashioned dialogue. But any book will sell with good marketing, even the poorly written ones. Must say quite disappointed considering the hype about it.
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The Luminaries
The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
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