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The Luminaries (2013)

by Eleanor Catton

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
3,7732172,314 (3.79)1 / 639
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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» See also 639 mentions

English (207)  Dutch (6)  German (1)  French (1)  All languages (215)
Showing 1-5 of 207 (next | show all)
The Luminaries I downloaded this from Amazon on the day that the Booker Prize was announced. It is a very long and detailed book.
 
I live in New Zealand and am familiar with the place and to a lesser extent with the time that it is set in. Given that familiarity it made it a relatively easy read for me. The astrology went over my head but I never felt that I missed out on anything that significant. I may be wrong on that though.
 
I was completely engaged from the get go and found the characters easy to follow without them seeming too shallowly  portrayed. I like the contrasting natures of the characters and the interplay between them. It is, of course, a whodunnit and one that keeps you on your toes for the whole 800 odd pages without it being boring or flat. In fact I enjoyed it immensely.
 
There has been heaps in the media about the book and the author so I won't retread that ground.
 
Should you read it? Of course, but  at that size you will need iron wrists to get to the end. If ever there was a convincing argument for e-readers this book is it. Buy one and make this the first book you read on it and you will never look back.
 
If you are dead set against ebook readers then this book, at 832 pages, will cripple you and "the feel of a book" will be mostly pain.
 
Happy reading.
 
  ( )
  Ken-Me-Old-Mate | Sep 24, 2020 |
“The clock had struck that late hour of twilight when all colours seem suddenly to lose their richness, and it was raining hard; though the cockled glass, the yard was bleached and fading. Inside, the spirit lamps had not yet succeeded the sea-coloured light of the dying day, and seemed by virtue of their paleness to accent the general cheerlessness of the room’s decor.’’

The 14th of January 1866 was a rather inauspicious day. A young woman is found unconscious, a heavy sum has been sewn in her dresses. An elusive man has died and a mysterious young man has disappeared. A mysterious widow and her companion seem to move the strings, and unrest has awoken within the Chinese community. This is the situation in the rugged town of Hokitika in New Zealand when Walter Moody arrives, enticed by the thriving goldfields. The tales that starts to unfold in a smoky room in Crown Hotel is as dark, mystical and intricate as the nightly sky and the constellations that rule our fate…

The Luminaries is one of those gloriously complex and deliciously confusing books that are impossible to review without a) sounding utterly incomprehensible, and b) revealing crucial parts of the plot. Or plots, to be more precise. Twelve men who represent the zodiac circle and characters who stand as representatives of the planets. Among them, two of the most enigmatic and fascinating female characters in recent Literature, Lydia Wells and Anna Wetherell who are the heart of this epic noel. Epic not in scope or in characters since both are limited, but in terms of the questions it poses regarding human nature, something I always look for in the novels I choose to read.

‘’Never underestimate how extraordinarily difficult it is to understand a situation from another person’s point of view.’’

Greed, love, fraud, tireless hunting for fortune, endless schemes and intrigues. The interaction of different cultures, the position of women and men in a newly-built society, the fight for survival in a land as beautiful and mystical as it is rugged and demanding, spirituality, mystery and justice. Everything is called into question, everything is fluid. Each plotline, each event is presented through the multiple views of our characters and the richness of the novel lies in the exploration of the diverse opinions and attitudes towards their fellow human beings. One’s wish is another’s curse and life unfolds in mysterious ways.

Before I conclude my poor attempt of a review, I’d like to refer to Lydia and Anne, the reasons that made me fall deeply in love with Eleanor Catton’s masterpiece. Two women, polar opposites one could say, but with many similarities. Both determined to stand for themselves and survive in a world of men, both willing to overstep the boundaries between determination and ruthlessness, both at the side of the men they have chosen to trust. However, one stands for wisdom, cunningness and seduction, the other for mercy and understanding. But is it all a facade? Which one is on the side of the angels? That is for each one of us readers to decide.

One of those novels that you know they will soon enter the pantheon of classic Literature, monumental moment, a book that takes you on a stormy journey on the Earth and the stars.

‘’You shared your language. You shared the stories of your people. It is a fine friendship that is built from that kind of stone.’’

My reviews can also be found on https://theopinionatedreaderblog.wordpress.com/ ( )
  AmaliaGavea | Jul 24, 2020 |
stops.

Virgo 23 August - 23 September
Saturn is entering Orion which suggests it's that time of year again when the Man Booker Prize longlist is announced. A few years ago I tentatively lost my Booker virginity with Patrick deWitt's [b:The Sisters Brothers|9850443|The Sisters Brothers|Patrick deWitt|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1291999900s/9850443.jpg|14741473]. My main concern was that to be longlisted for the Booker prize, one needed an overly poetic style and an absence of interesting plot. The Sisters Brothers didn't knock my socks off, but it had a nice enough plot and a readable enough style to encourage me to try again the next year.

Libra 24 September - 23 October
My Booker choice for 2012 was Jeet Thayil's [b:Narcopolis|12384322|Narcopolis|Jeet Thayil|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1328213696s/12384322.jpg|14416249]. Once again my socks refused to be knocked, and the writing style did veer towards the overly florid, but it was still not bad. But the real saving grace for this little tradition I had started was my reading of [b:Wolf Hall|6101138|Wolf Hall (Thomas Cromwell, #1)|Hilary Mantel|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1336576165s/6101138.jpg|6278354]. It won the prize back in 2009, and as the judge's statement might have said at the time: holy shit that book is good.

Scorpio 24 October - 22 November
Flash forward to 2013 and the announcement of the longlist. I hadn't heard of any of the titles nor even any of the authors. After a good two minutes of research I ordered two of the more interesting sounding novels. I realised I may have erred when the package arrived and I found myself the proud owner of nearly two thousand pages of Booker longlist material. Not to be deterred I started on the shorter of the two, Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries, and left the other title for later (a serendipitous choice since, while reading it, The Luminaries graduated to the shortlist, whereas the other work, Richard House's [b:The Kills|18224507|The Kills (The Kills, #1-4)|Richard House|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1374578882s/18224507.jpg|25658889], did not).

Sagittarius 23 November - 21 December
For someone like me who's both wary of literary flourishes and a fierce sceptic of all things pseudo-scientific, the overarching conceit of The Luminaries is a little nerve-jangling. Astrology is the name of the game, the twelve members of the eponymous group representing the zodiac and other characters corresponding to more esoteric aspects of the practice. The book is in twelve parts and time sort of wraps around, starting somewhere near the middle and, about three quarters of the way through, resorting to flash backs to bring us back full circle - just as the first sign, Aries, begins with Spring in late March and not with the new year.

Capricorn 22 December - 20 January
Perhaps fortunately, these horoscopic flourishes are mostly confined to the meta-structure of the novel, only making one slightly cringeworthy foray into the text itself. Indeed, the story, for all its subtleties and intricacies and intrigues, is told remarkably well, although I never managed to figure out if Eleanor Catton's habit of telling rather than showing was purposefully clever or just sloppy writing. Unreliable narrators abound, including the third-person voice of the author, who is happy to admit she's giving a cleaned-up version of some character's rambling version of events. That being said I was glad at the end of the first part, after some three hundred pages of rather convoluted storytelling, when one of the characters donned his Captain Exposition hat and explained what the hell was going on.

Aquarius 21 January - 19 February
Although the novel might fit vaguely into the mystery genre, it is refreshingly happy not tidying up every loose end. The aforementioned circular use of time explains some of the backstory, but each of the twelve parts is shorter than the previous one, leading to a rather frenzied finish.

Pisces 20 February - 20 March
A particularly quaint little trick the novel pulls off is the use of those little précis at the start of each chapter explaining what happens therein. These things are fairly common in older books, but you rarely see them these days. Here they appear to be innocently giving a summary of the coming pages.

Aries 21 March - 20 April
But as the novel progresses and the pace continues to accelerate these little summaries start to tell more and more of the story, ultimately explaining swathes of the plot

Taurus 21 April - 21 May
while the actual story text gives snatches of conversation, or thoughts, or feelings.

Gemini 22 May - 21 June
And so it hurtles beautifully, becoming

Cancer 22 June - 22 July
ever more succinct,

Leo 23 July - 22 August
until it just
( )
  imlee | Jul 7, 2020 |
stops.

Virgo 23 August - 23 September
Saturn is entering Orion which suggests it's that time of year again when the Man Booker Prize longlist is announced. A few years ago I tentatively lost my Booker virginity with Patrick deWitt's [b:The Sisters Brothers|9850443|The Sisters Brothers|Patrick deWitt|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1291999900s/9850443.jpg|14741473]. My main concern was that to be longlisted for the Booker prize, one needed an overly poetic style and an absence of interesting plot. The Sisters Brothers didn't knock my socks off, but it had a nice enough plot and a readable enough style to encourage me to try again the next year.

Libra 24 September - 23 October
My Booker choice for 2012 was Jeet Thayil's [b:Narcopolis|12384322|Narcopolis|Jeet Thayil|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1328213696s/12384322.jpg|14416249]. Once again my socks refused to be knocked, and the writing style did veer towards the overly florid, but it was still not bad. But the real saving grace for this little tradition I had started was my reading of [b:Wolf Hall|6101138|Wolf Hall (Thomas Cromwell, #1)|Hilary Mantel|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1336576165s/6101138.jpg|6278354]. It won the prize back in 2009, and as the judge's statement might have said at the time: holy shit that book is good.

Scorpio 24 October - 22 November
Flash forward to 2013 and the announcement of the longlist. I hadn't heard of any of the titles nor even any of the authors. After a good two minutes of research I ordered two of the more interesting sounding novels. I realised I may have erred when the package arrived and I found myself the proud owner of nearly two thousand pages of Booker longlist material. Not to be deterred I started on the shorter of the two, Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries, and left the other title for later (a serendipitous choice since, while reading it, The Luminaries graduated to the shortlist, whereas the other work, Richard House's [b:The Kills|18224507|The Kills (The Kills, #1-4)|Richard House|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1374578882s/18224507.jpg|25658889], did not).

Sagittarius 23 November - 21 December
For someone like me who's both wary of literary flourishes and a fierce sceptic of all things pseudo-scientific, the overarching conceit of The Luminaries is a little nerve-jangling. Astrology is the name of the game, the twelve members of the eponymous group representing the zodiac and other characters corresponding to more esoteric aspects of the practice. The book is in twelve parts and time sort of wraps around, starting somewhere near the middle and, about three quarters of the way through, resorting to flash backs to bring us back full circle - just as the first sign, Aries, begins with Spring in late March and not with the new year.

Capricorn 22 December - 20 January
Perhaps fortunately, these horoscopic flourishes are mostly confined to the meta-structure of the novel, only making one slightly cringeworthy foray into the text itself. Indeed, the story, for all its subtleties and intricacies and intrigues, is told remarkably well, although I never managed to figure out if Eleanor Catton's habit of telling rather than showing was purposefully clever or just sloppy writing. Unreliable narrators abound, including the third-person voice of the author, who is happy to admit she's giving a cleaned-up version of some character's rambling version of events. That being said I was glad at the end of the first part, after some three hundred pages of rather convoluted storytelling, when one of the characters donned his Captain Exposition hat and explained what the hell was going on.

Aquarius 21 January - 19 February
Although the novel might fit vaguely into the mystery genre, it is refreshingly happy not tidying up every loose end. The aforementioned circular use of time explains some of the backstory, but each of the twelve parts is shorter than the previous one, leading to a rather frenzied finish.

Pisces 20 February - 20 March
A particularly quaint little trick the novel pulls off is the use of those little précis at the start of each chapter explaining what happens therein. These things are fairly common in older books, but you rarely see them these days. Here they appear to be innocently giving a summary of the coming pages.

Aries 21 March - 20 April
But as the novel progresses and the pace continues to accelerate these little summaries start to tell more and more of the story, ultimately explaining swathes of the plot

Taurus 21 April - 21 May
while the actual story text gives snatches of conversation, or thoughts, or feelings.

Gemini 22 May - 21 June
And so it hurtles beautifully, becoming

Cancer 22 June - 22 July
ever more succinct,

Leo 23 July - 22 August
until it just
( )
  leezeebee | Jul 6, 2020 |
I guess this is how the Booker works is it? The shortest short stories in the world one year, 800 pages of turgid astrology the next?


http://alittleteaalittlechat.wordpress.com/2014/02/22/the-luminaries-by-eleanor-... ( )
  bringbackbooks | Jun 16, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 207 (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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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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Wikipedia in English (2)

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.

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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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