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Customer reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars
3.5 out of 5 stars
The Luminaries
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on 18 September 2017
Very good , but difficult to follow at times. Also needed dictionary many times. But kept you captivated to finish book.
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on 12 May 2017
Having recently returned from Hokitika New Zealand where this book is mainly set ,I was looking forward to reading it ,I wasn't disappointed. It's long and the plot is complicated ,but my advice is stick with it ,it's well worth it. Perhaps not the best choice for those with a short attention span as you need to concentrate on the characters and how they fit into the story, but for those who like a good story intelligently written then give this a try .
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on 27 April 2017
This Man Booker Prize winner was chosen by my local reading group as our book to read for April. At first glance, The Luminaries looks like a daunting proposition because it is over 800 pages long and initially appeared to me to be the kind of fiction that would mainly appeal to intellectuals. However, I found it to be a fairly accessible novel as regards getting my head around the characters and the various plot-lines. I'll admit that I didn't take much notice of the astrological theme that is woven throughout the novel and didn't feel in any way that ignoring this element hampered or reduced my enjoyment and reading experience.

I won't give a synopsis of the book because so many other reviewers have already given excellent overviews. All I can add is that I found it to be an irresistible story set in New Zealand during the gold rush of the 1860's.

I was amazed to find out that the author is only 32 years of age as she has so skilfully and convincingly constructed a tale using the style of 19th century writers - it's a brilliant work of fiction and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with it.
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on 10 November 2016
I don't usually go in for the hype surrounding Booker winners, but this sounded like a novel I would enjoy regardless.
A Victorian-esque mystery set during the New Zealand gold rush on the west coast during the 1860s was right up my street: I like Victorian fiction and history and although I haven't actually been to the west coast of New Zealand I have been to Dunedin and Otago where part of this novel is set and have even tried a bit of gold-panning myself in the mighty Clutha river amongst other places(unsuccessfully I might add).
I did quite enjoy this novel. I did finish it despite its daunting length. In fact I finished it quite quickly considering- despite it's clearly imitating the grandiloquence and verbosity of Victorian fiction it actually moves along at a pace after a slowish start- thanks largely to lengthy sections of dialogue, which although the author tries, never reaches the heights of true Victorian verbiage, and that after about halfway the chapters become increasingly shorter.
But what of it? Yes it's worth a read but I really can't see what all the fuss is about. It's basically a mystery and not a very complicated mystery at heart. It seems the author has taken this mystery story and tried to dress it up as something all together more meaningful rather than the fairly ordinary, well executed but still ordinary, historical novel that it is.
I don't believe in astrology so I can't begin to guess what the meaning of the astrological stuff is, if indeed it means anything or is rather a load of BS frankly.
All the principal characters are given a thorough character description: two or three lengthy paragraphs describing the origins, temperament and contradictions of their nature but ultimately they all end up fairly two-dimensional.
The time and place is evoked well but nothing lingers in the mind beyond the mostly dreary weather and the impression that this is nothing very original.
I can't see how the Booker judges thought this was worthy of the prize unless they decided they might as well give it to a shaggy dog story for once.
I can think of another novel set in the same time and place as this one that is far superior, infinitely less pretentious and a fraction of the length- 'The Colour' by Rose Tremain. If you want a Booker winner worthy of the prize set in a similar period and nearly the same place (Australia) then read 'Oscar and Lucinda' by Peter Carey.
The ambition and completion of 'The Luminaries' must be admired from such a relatively young author but it is as an apprentice piece compared to the two novels aforementioned and I am afraid the Booker award doesn't help matters-it only places undue weight upon its slender shoulders and heightens reader expectation for an ultimately average novel.
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on 25 September 2017
Complex novel which needs 100% concentration all the time - not easy with a novel of 800 pages written in a leisurely, discursive style as a pastiche of a Victorian thriller. The story itself is absolutely fascinating and the author has clearly done a huge amount of research. The setting is the mid 19th century gold rush in New Zealand and the harshdesperate, mainly greedy lives of the gold seekers is brilliantly evoked. My problem with the structure of the novel was that it was very hard to keep the convoluted story in mind long enough to remember who and what the writer was talking about, from one 100 pages to another. Half way through there is a resume of the plot and characters, and I was mightily relieved to read it. The other is the mock Victorian style of writing which is, inevitably, somewhat arch and self-conscious. But very well done within these constraints. I do recommend this novel, it kept my attention and admiration despite a few misgivings, and you can't say fairer than that.
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on 7 January 2015
Set in the era of the New Zealand gold rush, The Luminaries is a great sprawling epic of a murder mystery, written by a dazzlingly talented, contemporary writer in the style of a Victorian novel.

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.
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on 14 August 2017
I hated this book. The prose style was mind-numbing, as was the plot. I read on, and on, and on, hoping to be gripped, but in the end had to abandon the book. I understand from the reviews that the author is reported as having said that bad reviews are mainly from men over 45. Maybe people over 45 just find the book to self indulgent. I certainly did (woman over 45).
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on 26 August 2016
I don't think the people who decide who gets prizes like the Booker etc have actually read this all the way through.
There is no way they'd have the time to, and if they had read it all, there is no way they'd have chosen this as the winner.

Too long. Goes out with a whimper.
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on 12 October 2017
For the most part I found it absorbing and enjoyable, if hard work. The end is lamentable however. After all that detail it seems to collapse completely with endless summaries of what happened –really poor. Also, no doubt the astrology had some significance but it was hard to see what that was without being able to read the charts. I think structures and devices became secondary to the characters sometimes as they were often lengthily described by their internal processes rather than by means of dialogue. For such a long book it does not contain much dialogue. All the loose ends are not tied up and I am still puzzled as to whether Staines was the man in the crate on the ship –no real explanation of that is given. There is a huge amount of coincidence in the book. All these intertwined characters seem to end up in the same small part of the world which is unlikely. The character of Anna is never truly described although all the men seem to be in love with her. When she does speak there isn't that much to her. Since she is so central to the book I think she could have been fleshed out much more.
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on 9 June 2015
This book was such a struggle. I gave up on page 264 although I'd lost interest long before that. It totally defeated me. I didn't engage with any of the characters. I didn't care what happened to any of them.
It wouldn't put me off buying another book by Eleanor Catton. Some of the writing is really exquisite. But a story this long really needs to move along. The pages felt very heavy!
It does have a lovely cover - !
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