Originally I was never going to read this book, after all it was the Booker winner and one person had led me to believe that it was about astrology. With that in mind I was rather dumbfounded why it has been one of the top ten bestselling books at my local bookshop for quite some time, and thus decided to give it the benefit of the doubt and actually read it. I did find that it does contain astrology but not in the way that you may think; it is in the charts at the beginning of each section, which in a way puts certain constraints on what can be narrated in each part, which does lead to a certain amount of repetition throughout the book.
I was delighted though to find when I started reading this that it is in actual fact a pastiche of `Sensation Fiction'. The `Sensation Novel' was in its day hugely popular and ultimately evolved into thrillers, psychological crime novels, etc, and indeed the date that this novel is set coincidentally happens to be when this type of novel was extremely popular.
When Walter Moody comes to land late one rainy night he finds himself accidentally walking into a room in the hotel where a private meeting between twelve men has been going on. Moody doesn't realise at first, but gradually the others draw him into what they have met about. Not all these men are white like him, because there is one Maori and two Chinese men present as well. As the people at this meeting begin to tell Moody of what has been happening it seems that he is being inundated with crimes. There is a dead man, a missing man, the mysterious appearance and disappearance of gold, blackmail, adultery, deceit and fraud. Obviously a lot has been going on and Moody is now caught up in it all. As the story unfolds we see more clearly what has been going on and who is responsible for what, and why.
I know some have complained on here that there are too many characters, but in fact it is about a dozen or so people that you have to keep an eye on, which when you think about it isn't that much, after all most people on here probably work with at least that many people each day, and know what is going on with them. The story itself is relatively easy to understand, but unless you are into 19th Century literature's popular `Sensation Novels' you may find yourself getting bored in places, or confused as to why certain things happen. Of course on top of that using astrology to in a way plot how this unfolds with regards to the characters is quite novel and one wonders whether Eleanor Catton is just showing off, but it does work.
In all I am now very glad that I have read this as I was caught up in the story pretty quickly and thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. This most definitely won't be for everyone, but for quite a few people I would say that they will enjoy this, especially if they love `Sensation Novels'.
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