Winner of the Man Booker Prize 2013 and the Canadian Governor General's Literary Award 2013.
It is 1866 and Walter Moody has come to make his fortune upon the New Zealand goldfields. On arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of 12 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 fortune 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.
The Luminaries is an extraordinary piece of fiction. Written in pitch-perfect historical register, richly evoking a mid-19th-century world of shipping and banking and goldrush boom and bust, it is also a ghost story, and a gripping mystery. It is a thrilling achievement for someone still in her mid-20s, and will confirm for critics and listeners that Catton is one of the brightest stars in the international writing firmament.
Eleanor Catton was born in 1985 in Canada and raised in New Zealand. She completed an MA in Creative Writing at Victoria University in 2007 and won the Adam Prize in Creative Writing for The Rehearsal. She was the recipient of the 2008 Glenn Schaeffer Fellowship to study for a year at the prestigious Iowa Writers' Workshop in the US and went on to hold a position as Adjunct Professor of Creative Writing there, teaching Creative Writing and Popular Culture. Eleanor won a 2010 New Generation Award. She now lives in Wellington, New Zealand.
©2013 Eleanor Catton (P)2013 Audible Ltd
"The Luminaries is an impressive novel, captivating, intense and full of surprises.” (Times Literary Supplement)
“The Luminaries is a breathtakingly ambitious 800-page mystery with a plot as complex and a cast as motley as any 19th-century doorstopper. That Catton's absorbing, hugely elaborate novel is at its heart so simple is a great part of its charm. Catton's playful and increasingly virtuosic denouement arrives at a conclusion that is as beautiful as it is triumphant.” (Daily Mail)
“It is awesomely - even bewilderingly - intricate. There's an immaculate finish to Catton's prose, which is no mean feat in a novel that lives or dies by its handling of period dialogue. It's more than 800 pages long but the reward for your stamina is a double-dealing world of skullduggery traced in rare complexity. Those Booker judges will have wrists of steel if it makes the shortlist, as it fully deserves.” (Evening Standard),br />“Eleanor Catton is nothing if not ambitious. Her latest novel, longlisted for this year's Man Booker prize, is an 828-page blockbuster. With astonishing intricacy and patient finesse, Catton brings to life the anomalous nature of 19th-century New Zealand.” (Sunday Times)
“Expansive and quite superb. Catton writes with real sophistication and intelligence... with intricate plotting and carefully wrought scenes.” (Scotsman)
“Every sentence of this intriguing tale set on the wild west coast of southern New Zealand during the time of its goldrush is expertly written, every cliffhanger chapter-ending making us beg for the next to begin. The Luminaries has been perfectly constructed as the consummate literary page-turner.” (Guardian)
“For the scale of her ambition and the beauty of its execution, somebody should give that girl a medal.” (Lucy Daniel, Daily Telegraph)
“a truly exciting new writer” (Kate Atkinson)
Say something about yourself!
I usually give in to the award winners, more out of a skeptical curiosity than the belief in some arbitrary group's promise that this will be *the best book I've read since...* I enjoy the mental argument that *they* got it wrong, as much as the agreement that *they* got it right, either way counting on being stirred enough by the read to have the passion for a discussion. In the case of the Luminaries, I get neither satisfaction. The only other short-listed Man Booker I've read this year is Harvest by Jim Crace -- it lost, and was about equally entertaining (as was Transatlantic, from the longlist). The word, I swore I'd never use in a review comes to mind -- meh (less a word than onomatopoeia) such a cop out, but the listen left me exhausted for the reasons I'll explain.
This is not a complaint, or to say I did not like the book. It is captivating and elaborately constructed with a great sense of place and time. The period details are transportive, in the beginning feeling much like a good Dickens pastiche. The characters, as many as there are months of the year, are each an astrological sign, or house, and the characteristics assigned to those distinctions, which she uses to prefix each chapter, as well as explain whom is in whose house, etc. Catton also enjoys some word-play in this complex production of writing and architecture -- writing each chapter with exactly half the words as the preceding chapter. All these pieces of construction are exceptionally ambitious and creative, but can be confusing and mentally labor intensive. (There is no explanation given in the audible version; I came to these realizations after banging my head against the wall for a couple of days, and relentlessly texting Darwin on the matter.)
Catton has definitely written an interesting novel, and written, and written, and belabored the plot until I just lost interest and wanted to move forward to a finish instead of reviewing, again, the events as told by each of the 12 characters involved. I would go into synopsis of the book, but then you'd have to hear the same plot from THIRTEEN points of view, instead of a mere TWELVE. Sophisticated intelligence, beautiful prose, and intricate plotting, become less so when redundant and complicated.
(A big) -- However... a friend tells me this is a book I would absolutely love if I read the book, which contains charts, graphs, and a very important list of characters, all adding clarity and an ease to the read, as well as beautifully tying in the astrological twist. For clarification, I did not like the book as I experienced it audibly, but I did recognize the talent and creativity enough to consider picking up the book and giving it another chance. It's is going to take me a while before I'm ready to tackle all 30 hours of this again. A consideration for those still undecided. Hopefully, a little understanding before going in will be helpful.
The pacing of this book is such that reading it myself, I found that I was skipping. One of the things I enjoy the most about audio books is being forced to slow down and enjoy the language. Maybe the complex structural devices do not come through in this experience, but the language is enhanced.
The outstanding character was none of the individuals, but rather the environment. Obviously I have no direct experience of gold mining on the West Coast in the 1800s, but I came away with a vivid picture in my mind.
Recently I listened to an interview by Orson Scott Card where he stated that some books are made to be read out loud. The Luminaries is one of those books. The range of characters, accents and the language make listening far more enjoyable than reading.Sometimes I read for plot, and sometimes for the rhythm and language, and while the plot is good, it is not the primary value of this book.
Perhaps the most unique aspect of this book and one that may slip a bit by in the audio format is the intricate structure /construct of this story. The book is set up precisely under the rules and timing of the wheeling astrological constellations and planetary influences on the trajectories and lives of twelve luminary characters and about 6 other important characters starting precisely on January 27, 1866 - ____1867 ~ at a precise compass point location in New Zealand (important for precise astrological charting of predestination?).
There are 12 parts of the novel that wane without waxing like the moon during that year. Each part is roughly half the length of the section that precedes it and the concept of halving and halving again is repeated often by different characters. The first part was fun for me and was a relatively interesting, and brilliantly written 358-ish pages long. The final part (Part-12) is only TWO pages long then poof, it over...I guess only to live on differently as the moon wanes anew and characters start their lying and deceit yet again I am guessing with a variance here or there and resulting different trajectories, or not, thus only to repeat pre-determined charted paths. I was quite surprised to realize that the story actually ends quite few hours before (300 pages or so) before the discussion on the two page final Part 12 section is interrupted and the book ends.
All events and characters reel/wheel under the influence of the planets and stars and time as it exists in the mathematically precise/predestined astrological realm except for one and only one character (the murder victim) who had a "Terrestrial" influence. I don't really know why as of this second reading, but, and I am guessing, but I think by the authors design to let the story wane and wane and wane I doubt any reader would care much about the victim or in the end about any of the characters or their lives. Is the author really not intending to tell any story ...changing what a novel is or definition of fiction...Why don't I care by the end? This is astounding as this author is a brilliant writer and spends hours describing her characters very intimately from both the inside and outside views from the perspective of many others from their in-most and their out-most "selves" and at varying levels I cared about each then lost the ability to care...again I think this was intentionally planned by the author, but I am not able to explain why coherently. I am still pondering this and wonder what other readers think or feel or know.
Concepts I liked pondering:
• Twins. Twin-ship. There are countless scenes where characters look into mirrors in the present time or as a memory and reflect on the mirror images of themselves and how this image influences everything. Characters ponder others viewing their mirror images and wondering if others would be surprised by the image they see of themselves and especially if that certain person gets surprised after looking into a mirror because the image proves they forgot a major event...More importantly can people be so linked they change places in time and place and are mirror twins?
• References to a "Twinkle" do not refer to stars but a means of cheating with a mirror at gambling which I won't disclose. Actually the language in the entire story is so well lit...well illuminated and full of mirror folding's and unfolding's.
• What is truth...the whole truth...is a whole truth possible? Is truth circular?
• Everyone lies all the time but what is the morality of lying to ones-inner most self , their outer-most self or others intentionally or inadvertently?
• What is more important...truth or loyalty?
Of course greed and money were key movers of the "plot" or storyline and while none are original an audio listener might do well to follow the money, the dresses and make their own Cliff's notes if they continue to care as the story does fold over itself repeatedly and there are new reveals but other obfuscations. There are many magical turnings based on the spirit of an ancient land and the effect of humans on this realm and vise versa to which I would pay more attention should I listen again. I'd keep better track of the Aurora land and image.
This could be viewed as a brilliant spoof of a Victorian novel and, if so, is well done. I liked the use of the chapter headings such as "Where the ___ get caught in a lie" and where X takes a big fall...At times it reminded me of an Agatha Christie mystery where there is a gathering of people and one "Mind" dices and slices each characters slice and version of an event...the "mind" of the story which solves the mystery. In this story the "Mind" telling the story changes from character to character from time to time...Time and events are clarified then blurred again until I as the reader did not believe any truth or story remained after the waning of the interrupted anti-climatic end. But I am confident I have only brushed the surface of this strangely strange "story". I await the thoughts of other readers!!
The book is too self-consciously into its own structure to the detriment of the narrative. In short, it was written for graduate seminars rather than for readers.
Yes. The book inspired me, no longer, to trust the Booker prize as an arbiter of literary merit. For the first time, the prize seems unjustified.
This is the kind of book that people will lie about having read for decades.
Obsessive audiobook listener....
I've had this book sitting on my bedside table for months; I finally broke down and got the audio book. I'm so glad I did. It's completely and totally engrossing--I was glad it was so long just because I was enjoying the story so much! After the Hillary Mantel books, probably my favorite Booker winner in a long time. The narrator is fabulous--he does accents incredibly well and in all but a few cases pronounces the Maori words accurately, which is a rarity. One quibble: Unless the pronunciation was different in the 19th century, Hokitika is pronounced Hoe-ka-tick-a, not Hah-ka-tee-ka; since that town is mentioned many, many, many times, the mispronunciation is a bit grating, but otherwise, his performance really makes the story come alive.
Not if I have to put up with the endless litany of unremarkable and unlikable characters
Give me a character or two that I could like.
Give it to me as a 10 chapter installment series. Make it lighter, or give at least one of the characters more heart than flaws
I know, the breadth and depth of this work is supposed to inspire me to find it amazing and brilliant. I found myself wishing that I could like any one of the myriad characters (I never did). I kept wishing that not everything was cast in a sense of doom and foreboding.
I made myself listen past the two hour mark, and at the ten hour mark, I still wanted to return it, so I have.
I really found it to be profoundly monotonous, lacking in any humanity or warmth, and while it might be the perfect punishment for an unruly AP English class, I could not find any enjoyable aspect of this work, and finally gave up torturing myself waiting for any character or feature of the plot to shine.
Clearly, I am deeply in the minority, but I cannot help but feel that "long and winding and obfuscated" have become the hallmarks for "great contemporary works of literature."
Yes, I know, I missed the magic. I never found it to be wonderful. I was not, sorry, even impressed. I felt like I was grinding out a horrible assignment, and found no pleasure in the work.
Yes, I know, clearly I'm an uneducated imbecile. My standards are too low (i.e., I'd rather read Mad Magazine than another two paragraphs of this painful exercise). I'm a horrible person with no taste. Fine. I want to like characters, or at least like the story. Or at least find the artifice (astrology? I have to be familiar with astrology to find this brilliant?) clever and approachable.
In short, despite my love of long and intricate stories, and my desire to be enthralled by depth of character and be enveloped into a world created by the author, I just deplored having to listen to the bulk of this book.
Back to the drawing board.
Not all that much story, way too many words. I love detail and long, long books by accomplished writers: Steinbeck, Dickens, Hardy, Stephenson - but this seemed mostly just filler. 29 Hours should have more information.
He did what he could; he did make the blustery, arrogant characters very unpleasant
Not so much deleting a scene as removing the verbal bloat within them
I am sorry to be so negative, Ms.Catton's editors have failed her. There were many opportunities for beautifully drawn characters and backgrounds in the book.
A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.
There is certainly a lot to like about Eleanor's novel. Its structure is fascinatingly clever and reminds me of the way Nabokov divided ADA, or Ardor. In the Luminaries -- Part 1: 360 pgs, Part 2: 160 pgs, Part 3: 104 pgs, Part 4: 96 pgs, Part 5: 40 pages, Part 6: 26 pages, Part 7: 13 pages, Part 8: 10 pgs, Part 9: 6 pgs, Part 10: 6 pgs, Part 11: 4 pages, Part 12: 4 pages. Or looked at slightly differently:
Compare this to Nabokov's ADA -- Part 1: 326 pgs, Part 2: 120, Part 3: 86, Part 4: 32, Part 5: 25
Or looked at slightly differently:
Catton is following in the brave tradition of Nabokov, Pynchon, et al in constructing an elaboratly structured novel. The plot is interesting, but at times ends up being a little redundant. Do we really need to look at the same event from twelve different angles? OK, I'm not sure if that actually ever happens, but at points in the novel it sure felt like it did.
My problem with Catton is she just don't hold up against the writers I want to compare her to (Pynchon, Dickens, Carey, Nabokov) Carey and Nabokov demolish her prose. Her language while precise didn't twinkle or thrill me. Her plot while interesting didn't pull OR push me. Her characters while interesting didn't move or provoke me. And her setting, while exotic didn't capture or entice me. I want to give her some MFA extra-credit for her ambition, but great literature can't be solely rewarded for its ambition and potential. The Luminaries lacked the heart, soul and transcendence that a book about the stars and lovers almost demands. She belongs on the shelf next to Eggers, just not next to Nabokov.
It was difficult to keep all the characters and intrigue straight in my head - and I'm still not entirely sure I know exactly what happened - but I really enjoyed this listen. The whole thing reminded me very much of Dickens in that there was a large cast of very interesting, well-drawn characters and the novel was completely plot-driven. The narration by Mark Meadows is absolutely fantastic. I really don't know if I would have been able to power through the rather confusing beginning if it weren't for him (I listen while I work - so this book might not be quite as mystifying for the completely undistracted listener). And I'm really glad I did power through - I think this was my favorite audible book of the year.
The prose is wonderful and the narration is faultless but the story is just too slow to keep me interested in returning to it.
"Storytelling at Its Best,Stylish & Elegant"
The dickensian style of the narative.
any of the 19th centuary classics
excellent very easy listening
a very good mix of characters and a complicated interplay between them.
A brilliant acheivement for such a young author. A very good story well told,I would highly recommend this book
"Ideal choice for listening"
In length it's number one! I started with the knowledge that this Booker Prize winner is long. People have seen the book & been daunted by its size. Audible is the obvious answer. It's still 29hrs, but life can go on alongside "reading" The Luminaries. Mark Meadows as narrator is excellent. His rendition differentiates the numerous characters to minimise confusion. It's a long and complex story which is well worth persisting with. The chapters start very long until near the end when the pace quickens with very short chapters. The passing of time is handled in an interesting way. Initially it's by the various characters relating their part in the story which centres on the death of an isolated man, the disappearance of another - young and newly successful in the gold rush - and the involvement of a young woman trapped by prostitution and opium. A mysterious fortune in gold and a universally despised sea captain link the characters. We gradually discover events over the past couple of years, whilst moving forward in the present. (19C New Zealand.) Eventually the past meets the present and we find the answer to the mysteries which bind the cast.
The complexity, the gentle unfolding and the vision of the life of the times.
Clarifies the complexity by differentiating the characters.
"Beautifully written, but slower than a snail"
Wonderfully written for the first 4 hours ...... after 8 hours of having barely progressed on the plot line, and going layer by layer over and over the initial two events .... I was rapidly losing interest. And another 12 hours to go. If her next book was more condensed, definitely as she is a remarkable writer. The narration was excellent.
Something a LOT pacier.
Mark Meadows reads with good pace, and manages effectively to capture all of the different global accents of the characters - bar the Mauri who comes over in a South African rather than New Zealand accent.
Yes definitely film/tv material and would work well conversely being forced to be condensed - something which usually doesn't work from book to film.
"very slow and boring"
It's not often I can't finish an audio book, but really struggled with one and gave up about a third of the way through.
"Excellent if you suffer from insomnia."
So many characters, and not a single one that I cared about. To be honest, at the end of the book I was thoroughly bored and happy it had finally finished.
It's bad enough on TV when you get told what's going to happen in the next section of the show, but to do that in every chapter of the book was really annoying.
I have no idea why we were told about signs of the zodiac or a co-ordinate at the start of each chapter, it had nothing to do with the story as far as I could tell.
The Maori guy (I can't find the spelling of his name anywhere). The accent and way of talking were excellent.
Actually, the performance by Mark Meadows was really good in general, just a bit soporific.
Disappointment and boredom
Mark Meadows bought this book to life, all his characters voice never faultered though this book.
Finding Mr. Stains
A brilliant peformance through out.!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The whole period was beautifully portrayed by the author,her mentor must have been Charles Dickens
The Auther well deserved her award fo this piece of period art.
"not very impressed at all"
Not enough substance - the story line is a bit boring to be honest.
The reader was good :)
"A captivating listen"
Well plotted, a great tale, amazing weaving of characters, plot meanders and comes back on itself, intriguing, narrator is SO good !
"Doesn't work as an audiobook"
As I say in the title, I don't believe this book works as an audible book. Though very detailed and well written, there isn't enough narrative drive. I persevered until halfway through the first part and have given up listening.
It is The Greenfinch by Donna Tartt - I'm hooked already.
I shall buy the book and read it as I want to know what happens but can't dedicate 32 hours of my life listening to find out!
"Good narration, but I lost the will to carry on."
I have been a audible listener for 8 years and this is only the second book I have decided to not finish. I always buy unabridged books as I like the longer more detailed stories which have time to develop and reflect the authors true intention for the reader in terms of the characters and story line. Having read the reviews I excitably started listening but after a few hours wondered what I had bought. Yes it is descriptive in terms of the characters but often this is overstated and too detailed and detracts the listener from where the story is going. Eventually the feeling of actually getting nowhere in terms of the story line and realising that there probably won't be a breakthrough in terms of the plot has led me to take the decision to stop listening and put this one down to experience.As previously stated, I adore a longer story but really found I had to push myself to keep listening which as I listen for pleasure was not my idea of fun.
Performance was clear and easy to listen to.
Disappointment and wondering if it was just me who didn't get it?
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