Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.
The Luminaries (2013)
by Eleanor Catton
Best Historical Fiction (118)
» 35 more
Booker Prize (38)
Books Read in 2016 (125)
Historical Fiction (142)
Books Read in 2015 (271)
Female Author (307)
Books Read in 2021 (462)
Top Five Books of 2017 (364)
Unread books (356)
Books Read in 2018 (3,562)
Big Jubilee List (23)
Contemporary Fiction (80)
Books read in 2015 (53)
SFF Down Under (2)
Tagged 19th Century (62)
I hadn't realized that this book was not only set in the 1800s but is also written in an engaging 19th-century style. loved it from the first page to the last conversation, in which the speakers are never identified, leaving the reader to determine what the words mean, and to whom. can't recommend this enough! ( )
More an exercise in meeting certain criteria (academia). Well written, but ultimately pointless
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.
Eleanor Catton's Booker Prize-winning novel is essentially a Western set in New Zealand during the gold rush days. It's a complicated tale of plot and skullduggery centred on four contemporaneous events: the death of a hermit, the discovery of a sizeable and unexplained stash of gold, the disappearance of a wealthy miner and the arrest of a whore passed out on the road-side.
The novel starts with Walter Moody arriving in the gold mining town of Hokitika. He stumbles onto a covert meeting of 12 men, who are gathered to discuss these events. in a Rashomon-like fashion, Catton moves between narrators at this meeting to recount the mysterious events going on. It takes her about 350 pages to introduce her characters and set the scene, but there is so much going on here that it does not seem to drag at all.
The rest of the book delves into the background of the key characters and fleshes out the plot, gradually filling in the blanks and dramatically shifting our understanding of some of the characters in the process. This is artfully done so that while she adds a lot of detail, she does not give away too much too early.
Surprisingly for an 830 page book, the novel feels a bit rushed. After a gradual and expansive reveal of the plot, the last 100 pages is delivered in a staccato fashion that feels as if the author had changed gears and was rushing towards a deadline to get the remaining chapters done. Catton has also employed some kind of astrological symbolism in her chapter headings (hence the title) but it really did not seem worth bothering to decipher her meaning. Presumably there is a puzzle there, but I found it too distracting.
The book reminded me of nothing so much as the TV series Deadwood without the profanity, and perhaps this is its weakness. It seems to me to be just another vast Western genre novel; a rattling good story that people will really enjoy, but I don't think it has the literary merit you'd expect of a Booker Prize winner.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
Belongs to Publisher Series
Has as a student's study guide
References to this work on external resources.
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.
No library descriptions found.
Amazon Kindle (0 editions)
Audible (0 editions)
CD Audiobook (0 editions)
Project Gutenberg (0 editions)
Google Books — Loading...
Melvil Decimal System (DDC)823.92Literature English & Old English literatures English fiction Modern Period 2000-
Is this you?
Become a LibraryThing Author.