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The Luminaries (2013)

by Eleanor Catton

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
5,1072472,180 (3.78)1 / 731
Fiction. Literature. Mystery. Historical Fiction. HTML:The winner of the Man Booker Prize, this "expertly written, perfectly constructed" bestseller (The Guardian) is now a Starz miniseries.  
It is 1866, and Walter Moody has come to stake his claim in New Zealand's booming gold rush. On the stormy night of his arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of 12 local men who have met in secret to discuss a series of unexplained events: a wealthy man has vanished, a prostitute has tried to end her life, and an enormous cache of gold has been discovered in the home of a luckless drunk. Moody is soon drawn into a network of fates and fortunes that is as complex and exquisitely ornate as the night sky.
Richly evoking a mid-nineteenth-century world of shipping, banking, and gold rush boom and bust, The Luminaries is at once a fiendishly clever ghost story, a gripping page-turner, and a thrilling novelistic achievement. It richly confirms that Eleanor Catton is one of the brightest stars in the international literary firmament.
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» See also 731 mentions

English (237)  Dutch (6)  Finnish (1)  French (1)  German (1)  All languages (246)
Showing 1-5 of 237 (next | show all)
A twisted tale of treachery, desire, betrayal and abuse all round, however it was written for 1865 New Zealand Gold rush whereby women and Chinese were deemed property. Hard to read in the initial stages so I found that as a reader I had to keep retracing pages and referring to my character map that I had drawn up after restarting the book once too often. It is a great story (if you can endure) of many plots that are intertwined and at the very end it seems the evil characters Francis Carver & and his devious cohort Lydia Wells still come out smelling of roses. I had no idea what the lunar / horoscopes/ zodiac had to do with the story, maybe it is just that everyone’s lives are intertwined due to the universe and whether we like it or not this determines our path, our fate. This line from the story, felt and spoken in mind by Anna (the whore) resonated with me as her character was indeed a sad story and yet she started out as a young, adventurous (but sadly naïve to the predation of humankind). As she lay in a gaol cell, beaten, bloodied uttering murmurings from her recent opiate use she felt and spoke in mind ‘A woman fallen has no future, a man risen has no past’ . Today, I feel that, this perception is still aligned with how people perceive and act towards each other. ( )
  rata | Jun 6, 2024 |
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. ( )
1 vote therebelprince | Apr 21, 2024 |
What a complex book! Hokitika in south New Zealand is a hotbed of a gold rush in 1866, drawing all the characters you can imagine, including, notably a Māori native, Chinese immigrants, a prostitute (& her pimp), hoteliers, bankers, a prison keeper, etc. along with the folks looking for gold and those looking to defraud them. A myriad of coincidences occur and every person knows just a little bit that all together tells the story. This book slowly puts the pieces together to reveal the origins of missing gold, a missing man, and all the underlying mysteries. Opioid addiction plays an important part of the story as well. Quite an excellent book. Almost 30 hours of an audiobook and I just raced through it. The narrator is spectacular. ( )
  KarenMonsen | Feb 9, 2024 |
3.5 ( )
  sweetimpact | Jan 18, 2024 |
a very well written book. The story takes place in 1866 in New Zealand and is kinda a "who done it". She develops the characters so well and I felt like I knew what people were thinking. Great read!!! One of my favorite books! ( )
  camplakejewel | Nov 14, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 237 (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.
 

» Add other authors (37 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Eleanor Cattonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Walz, MelanieÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Dedication
for Pop, who sees the stars
and Jude, who hears their music
First words
The twelve men congregated in the smoking room of the Crown Hotel gave the impression of a party accidentally met.
Quotations
'There's no charity in a gold town. If it looks like charity, look again.'
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
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Wikipedia in English (2)

Fiction. Literature. Mystery. Historical Fiction. HTML:The winner of the Man Booker Prize, this "expertly written, perfectly constructed" bestseller (The Guardian) is now a Starz miniseries.  
It is 1866, and Walter Moody has come to stake his claim in New Zealand's booming gold rush. On the stormy night of his arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of 12 local men who have met in secret to discuss a series of unexplained events: a wealthy man has vanished, a prostitute has tried to end her life, and an enormous cache of gold has been discovered in the home of a luckless drunk. Moody is soon drawn into a network of fates and fortunes that is as complex and exquisitely ornate as the night sky.
Richly evoking a mid-nineteenth-century world of shipping, banking, and gold rush boom and bust, The Luminaries is at once a fiendishly clever ghost story, a gripping page-turner, and a thrilling novelistic achievement. It richly confirms that Eleanor Catton is one of the brightest stars in the international literary firmament.

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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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