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The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
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The Luminaries (2013)

by Eleanor Catton

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3,7302072,288 (3.79)1 / 634
It is 1866, and Walter Moody has come to make his fortune upon the West Coast goldfields. On the night of his 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 sum of money 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.… (more)
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English (199)  Dutch (6)  German (1)  French (1)  All languages (207)
Showing 1-5 of 199 (next | show all)
The Luminaries is... delectable! Fumbling for the right word, I find myself thinking of what Lydia Wells would say, one of the characters so memorably brought to life in this staggering novel.

You may not like this book. If you don't have a yen for 800 page doorstoppers, elaborate 19th century structures and language styles, and dense thickets of plot, look elsewhere. (I'm not usually a fan of the latter, but if it comes packaged in the former, that rather changes my opinion.) If, however, you enjoy the heady combination of heightened language, courtroom (and behind-the-courtroom) drama, and historical fiction with a wry 21st century undercoat, this is for you. The Luminaries is also the beneficiary of a (pardon the pun) stellar audiobook narrated by Mark Meadows, who handles each of Catton's twenty-plus characters with panache. I rarely recommend the audio over the literary experience, but I think in this case, with the heavy emphasis on dialogue and narrative tone-of-voice, Meadows' performance amplifies and augments everything great in Catton's writing.

Exquisite. ( )
  therebelprince | Apr 27, 2020 |
The year is 1866, and Walter Moody has just arrived in Hokitika, hoping to find his fortune in the goldfields of New Zealand. Instead he stumbles in on a gathering of twelve men who are trying to unravel a complex set of mysteries. A man, Crosbie Wells, is discovered dead in a hut, and a whore, Anna Wetherell, is discovered nearly dead in the road, and a wealthy gold miner Emery Staines, has vanished. It is thought that Francis Carver may be the murderer, but nothing can be proved.

As these men speak to Moody, they try to unravel the truth from fiction and fact from lie, like who is Francis Carver, a man pursued by the Chinese man, Ah Sook, who is bent on revenge; who is Lydia Wells, claimed wife of Crosbie Wells, and who owns the gold, and is the claim on a new field by the newcomer, Emery Staines, authentic?

The book is split into twelve sections, each one linked to the men in the meeting, and there is an associated zodiac sign for each man too. I did like that each section is approximately half the length of the previous one, giving a sense of urgency toward the end of the book.

But the thing I could not get on with is the plot.

There is layer after layer of intrigue and mystery, with a whole raft of characters who are all linked or dependent on each other in one way or another. So much so, that you end up losing track of most of the characters, bar the odd one or two, as the story ebbs and flows. Catton does write will eloquence and flair though, the descriptions of the town and the landscape around are good, and I think that she has managed to convey the culture at the time fairly well. Not sure why she always had darned as d----d either. As for the astrological links that tie the characters together, that really didn’t do much for me.

I'm please that I managed to finish it, but I am not sure I am richer from the experience. ( )
  PDCRead | Apr 6, 2020 |
This book really is a best-of-class. Huge and constantly alive, detailed, vivid with intertwining plot lines and characters' histories it is the most I can expect from a standard novel. ( )
  GirlMeetsTractor | Mar 22, 2020 |
A complex and intriguing mystery, set against the frontier wilds of gold-rush era West Coast. Catton weaves the threads between characters with mastery, and a kind of staged theatricality, and the connections between the story and the movements of celestial bodies adds a unique depth of interest. The pacing in this novel slowly builds to fever pitch, wheeling towards a fated conclusion. A deserved winner of the 2013 Man Booker, 'The Luminaries' is a great NZ novel.
  DevilStateDan | Jan 28, 2020 |
A bit different from what I normally read but it was fantastic. Will probably have to read again just to truly understand it. ( )
  mmtrick | Oct 23, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 199 (next | show all)
It is complex in its design, yet accessible in its narrative and prose. Its plot is engrossing in own right, but an awareness of the structure working behind it deepens one’s pleasure and absorption. As a satisfying murder mystery, it wears its colours proudly, yet it is not afraid to subvert and critique the traditions and conventions of its genre. Best of all, while maintaining a wry self-awareness about its borrowings and constructions, it is never a cynical novel. At times, it can be unapologetically romantic, in both its narrative content and its attitude towards the literary tradition it emulates. It is a novel that can be appreciated on many different levels, but which builds into a consistent and harmonious whole.
 
Is Ms. Catton’s immense period piece, set in New Zealand, for readers who want to think about what they should be thinking? The book’s astrology-based structure does not exactly clarify anything. Its Piscean quality, she writes in an opening note, “affirms our faith in the vast and knowing influence of the infinite sky.”
added by ozzer | editNew York Times, Janet Maslin (Oct 23, 2013)
 
It’s easy to toss around words like “potential” and “promising” when a young author forges the kind of impression made by Eleanor Catton with her 2009 debut, The Rehearsal, a formally tricky but assured novel that hinged on teacher-student sexual relations. It won the Amazon.ca First Novel Award and the Betty Trask Award, and was a finalist for a handful of other plaudits, including the prestigious Dylan Thomas Prize for the best work by a writer under the age of 30. Making good on those expectations is another matter. With her ambitious second novel, Catton has accomplished that – and a great deal more.
[...]
The Luminaries is a novel that can be enjoyed for its engrossing entirety, as well as for the literary gems bestowed on virtually every page.
added by monnibo | editQuill & Quire, Vit Wagner (Oct 1, 2013)
 
The Luminaries has been perfectly constructed as the consummate literary page-turner.

But it is also a massive shaggy dog story; a great empty bag; an enormous, wicked, gleeful cheat. For nothing in this enormous book, with its exotic and varied cast of characters whose lives all affect each other and whose fates are intricately entwined, amounts to anything like the moral and emotional weight one would expect of it. That's the point, in the end, I think, of The Luminaries. It's not about story at all. It's about what happens to us when we read novels – what we think we want from them – and from novels of this size, in particular. Is it worthwhile to spend so much time with a story that in the end isn't invested in its characters? Or is thinking about why we should care about them in the first place the really interesting thing? Making us consider so carefully whether we want a story with emotion and heart or an intellectual idea about the novel in the disguise of historical fiction … There lies the real triumph of Catton's remarkable book.
added by Polaris- | editThe Guardian, Kirsty Gunn (Sep 11, 2013)
 
The narrative structure intrigues, moving Rashomon-like between viewpoints and the bounds of each character’s separate sphere of knowledge, without ever losing the reader, various characters playing detective then stepping aside. The novel has many attributes – excellent dialogue, humour, great observation, as when two acquaintances at a party share the same expression:......Catton matches her telling to her 19th-century setting, indulging us with straightforward character appraisals, moral estimations of each character along with old-fashioned rundowns of their physical attributes, a gripping plot that is cleverly unravelled to its satisfying conclusion, a narrative that from the first page asserts that it is firmly in control of where it is taking us. Like the 19th-century novels it emulates, The Luminaries plays on Fortune’s double meaning – men chasing riches, and the grand intertwining of destinies.
 
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Dedication
for Pop, who sees the stars
and Jude, who hears their music
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The twelve men congregated in the smoking room of the Crown Hotel gave the impression of a party accidentally met.
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'There's no charity in a gold town. If it looks like charity, look again.'
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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It is 1866, and Walter Moody has come to make his fortune upon the West Coast goldfields. On the night of his 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 sum of money 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. From the author of the award-winning global phenomenon The Rehearsal comes a breathtaking feat of storytelling where everything is connected, but nothing is as it seems.
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