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on 18 November 2013
Take no notice of any negative review of this book and try it for yourself. It is brilliant. Yes it's big. But so what? You will enjoy the beauty of the book for even longer! Nine ladies- young as we are to be in a Book Club- all loved it. Perfect for reading and telling all your friends about or discussing. Eleanor Catton might well have produced this to a formula. And yes the characters might not be as well developed as Willie Collins's might be, but it has other strengths that detract from these minor shortcomings. Buy it now!
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on 7 April 2014
If you have then you'll love, or at least appreciate this, or the amount of work that went into it. High end literary fiction. Lots of it.
If you've run out of Dickens et al. give this a whirl. I find the style and particularly the sheer size of the thing desperately hard work.
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on 28 September 2013
I loved this book from beginning to end. After reading the first two pages i was gobsmacked that someone so young could write with such an accomplished and thrilling style. It felt like reading Martin Amis or Peter Carey, that feeling of watching an acrobat performing fluent turns and twists except using words. It's no mean feat when a writer can weave a story with such a complex plot and cast of characters and yet do it such a way that you can't put it down. I loved her writing style and prose and found it similar in style to Peter Carey, another antipodean, never far from the booker short list. The characters are brilliantly imagined and the setting (the gold rush in NZ's west coast) makes for a rich theatre of human vice and frailty. The plot revolves around murder, smuggling and fortunes won and lost, although there are larger themes at play. In short, a great book and certainly deserving of the Booker prize should it win.
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on 21 January 2014
The style is Victorian, but if you can cope with that then indulge yourself in this elaborate web of personalities. Never once do you lose the plot. Eleanor Catton skilfully helps each character to pass the tale from one to the other like a cats cradle. Excellent big read. Loved it.
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on 29 January 2014
I found this a little difficult to get into, but once I did I was gripped. I really enjoyed the descriptions of 19th century New Zealand - and the food. There were some very moving parts, particularly about the Chinese characters. I wasn't wholly convinced by the ending, but the journey was enjoyable.
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on 9 January 2014
I love long books and I am a longtime fan of Victorian novels, so I thought this would be right up my street. It turned not to be the case at all. What I care about is a good story with lifelike characters. Unfortunately, those are exactly the two points where Ms. Catton's book is weakest.

Admirers of the book tend to be taken with its structure. For example, one professional reviewer wrote: "[I]t's not even a novel in the normal sense, but rather a mass confabulation that evaporates in front of us, an astrological divination waning like the moon, the first section 360 pages long (or are those degrees?), the last a mere sliver." My feet are too firmly planted on the ground, I suppose, because I felt it added nothing at all to the story that the parts became shorter and shorter as the novel went on, and I could see little that the astrological references had to do with the plot.

This tale of the various residents, visitors and newcomers to a New Zealand gold-rush town in the 1860s is told in jumbled time fragments, with the last page taking us to the events immediately before the book's opening scene. I normally enjoy non-linear storytelling, but I found it far less enjoyable in this case because the characters were so flat and there was so much jumping around just for the sake of jumping--or at least I could see no other good reason for it. Worse yet, the author would suddenly lay out vast swaths of exposition, which to me, is a failure of storytelling.

The author is certainly clever in a Victorian sort of way. Her character names, for example; like Carver for a man with a large facial scar, Devlin for a clergyman, Mannering for a boor. She follows the Victorian style of giving a précis of each chapter's events at the top of each chapter. That was occasionally entertaining, but as the chapters became shorter and shorter, the précis became, instead, more exposition.

I could see occasional glimmers of a brilliant novel. If only Catton were more skilled in characterization and dropped some of the structural gimmickry in favor of telling the story through the characters, rather than so much omniscient narrator exposition, this could have been a story with broad attraction. As it is, though, I think it will have a far more narrow appeal.
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on 28 November 2013
Give me time to finish the hundreds of pages, but so far its a great book and the story line is good, menacing in some places and intrigue to come. Description of characters very good. The actual hardback book is too heavy to carry around, so I have downloaded to Kindle.

I will review again when I have finished the book.
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on 31 May 2014
I love a densely plotted long novel,and looked forward to reading this on that basis, but found it repetitive and relatively uninteresting, as well as somewhat implausible. I nearly stopped reading it in the middle, which hardly ever happens. Can't fathom why it won a prize.
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on 9 November 2013
Too much like reading a Charles Dickens without the talent. Rambling confusing I gave up after 5 chapters. I then decided that I would try the
audio version hoping being 'read to' would make a difference. It didn't. It droned on and on and I fell asleep. I requested a refund from audible

If you liked Crime and Punishment you will probably like this book. It's not for me.
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on 26 November 2013
What a prodigy and a genius Eleanor Catton is! What a luminous story! To have achieved not only a Booker winner in her young years, but a book that is inventive and so readable as well, is a magnificent feat. Her vocabulary is powerful, her research into the history of the times and of aspects like a trial held in the courts of law of the time are awe-inspiring.

I have not enjoyed a book as much as this in a long time. The book is a page-turner, the mysteries interweaving and overlapping to an exquisite degree. I found the characters fascinating, the setting brought to life vividly and the plot wonderful. I couldn't wait to reach the end and find out the reason for the mysteries even though this would end the fabulous reading experience.

I admit to some regret that at the end I had to read over part of the last 100-150 pages to solve the mysteries. I figured out some although their description wasn't clear. I hope to be ambiguous so as not to give away spoilers, but the following remained a mystery. Why did Mrs. Wells turn Anna's life around and pay her debts? This was not at all clear to me. How did the Titania come to be? If anyone knows the answers to these questions, please let me know.

Should we use astrology to determine that Libran Catton has similarities with Harald Nilssen, the Libran?

There are 12 characters whose star signs we know. There are other major characters whose astrology signs we are not told such as: Walter Moody, Anna Wetherell, Lydia Wells, Francis Carver, Emery Staines, Alistair Lauderback, George Shepard and Crosbie Wells. Can we guess at these?

Although I have read about astrology for many years, I was baffled by the use of the astrology overview and the headings of the planets in the various signs. Maybe Catton could have painted a description at the end of each relevant chapter? E.g. for Jupiter in Sagittarius, we could learn that as Jupiter is in a sign it rules over and so is more powerful here and the qualities of Jupiter are strengthened e.g. people will look to for a higher meaning in their life. However, how astrology manifests in the plot is a big question mark to me.

I thoroughly recommend "Luminaries" as an engaging and well-written book with a humorous and compassionate look at humankind.
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