The Luminaries Paperback – 3 Apr 2014
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'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
'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' -- 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
'The 2013 Man Booker prize-winner is, even in paperback, a hefty tome. Catton's irresistibly intricate plot makes the pages fly by. Snappy dialogue, crisp humour and grand vision sets this far above its rivals *****' -- Daily Telegraph
'Truly dazzling' --Paperback review, Sunday Herald
'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' --Independent
'I enjoyed The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton's game of literary Cluedo so much I had to ration myself to 50 pages a day' --'Book of the Year', Observer
From the Inside Flap
It is 1866, and walter moody has come to make his fortune upon the new zealand goldfields. On arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of twelve local men, who have met in secret to discuss a series of unsolved crimes. A wealthy man has vanished, a whore has tried to end her life, and an enormous fortune has been discovered in the home of a luckless drunk. Moody is soon drawn into the mystery: a network of fates and fortunes that is as complex and exquisitely patterned as the night sky. The luminaries is an extraordinary piece of fiction. It is full of narrative, linguistic and psychological pleasures, and has a fiendishly clever and original structuring device. Written in pitch-perfect historical register, richly evoking a mid-19th century world of shipping and banking and goldrush boom and bust, it is also a ghost story, and a gripping mystery. It is a thrilling achievement and will confirm for critics and readers that catton is one of the brightest stars in the international writing firmament.See all Product description
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I had a vested interest in finishing this book as Catton is writing about the history of the country I grew up in, a country that was settled by immigrants to a New World of which I (and the author) was one.
There is so much to admire in this hugely ambitious book, not least the complex structure. As the astrology is the key to understanding the overall circular structure, each of the twelve parts is prefaced by an astrological chart. At at the start of the book a character chart highlights the personality types in each sign of the zodiac. Then there is the interplay between the astrological chart with its twelve signs of the zodiac and the structure of the twelve parts themselves. Each one is half the length of the preceding one until the last chapter is barely more than a few paragraphs long.
The Luminaries is beautifully written and Catton has a sly sense of humour, particularly in her use of language that mimics the style of Wilkie Collins and Dickens. However, where Catton and Dickens do differ is in terms of characterisation. I was determined to finish this book, but by the time I'd read 75% of the book my favourite character had been killed off. And I realised that even by this late stage of the book I had very little emotional connection to the remaining characters. There were one or two I felt sorry for, but that's different from actively wanting to find out what happens to them.
And then I had a moment of realisation as I thought about that circular structure. That must mean then that there wasn’t necessarily going to be a resolution. It turned out that I was right as I and many other readers were left with many unanswered questions. This, of course, may have been intentional. I'm afraid though that because I invested so much time reading this book, this unfinished business left me feeling rather let down. I did push on and finish it but didn't feel at all moved by the end or indeed did I take away any deep or lasting themes.
Although I suspect this book, which has won a host of literary awards, will go on to be studied as an example of A Great New Zealand Novel, for me it was a four star rather than a five star read.
I started reading it for a reading group. Be interesting to see what the others will make of it. I suspect I will probably have read further than most, but cannot see any of the other keen and active readers, finishing it.