Longlisted – Baileys Women’s Prize 2014
Man Booker Prize, Fiction, 2013
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)
This is one of the best books I've ever read, and, as a bibliophile, I do not say this lightly. Murder, revenge, love, deceit, betrayal, dastardly characters, innocent and charming characters; an epic, cinematic novel.
I have no doubt that Eleanor Catton's novels will become future classics, staples on every book lover's bookshelf. I have already recommended this to numerous friends, who are unanimously in awe of Catton's genius.
Listening to The Luminaries being read by Mark Meadows was an exquisite joy. Meadows as a narrator is unmatched, in my opinion. He switches seamlessly between a vast range of accents, the most impressive of which are probably Maori, Chinese, Norwegian, and German, although the spectrum of his English accents is amazing.
Emery Staines. I've never read a character quite like him. You can't help but be charmed and bewitched by him.
I loved listening to his performance of Harald Nilsson in particularly. Such a subtle accent.
One of the best
The separate story lines build the tension but do not come together until the end so it holds your attention until the end.
Great narration although his pronunciation of some of the place names was unusual.
No I needed to come up for air occasionally
A great story told in a way that kept me fully engaged and interested until the end.
Wine, food and travel writer, editor, novelist.
Mark Meadows is amazing, voicing more than a dozen characters so distinctly that it was like listening to an ensemble cast. His accents run the gamut from Scottish, to Irish, the various regional and class distinctions of England, Maori, Australian, Chinese, men and women, young and old. I only kept listening because of the narrator.
The book is Dickensian in scope and 19th Century in narrative style, which befits the subject, but it needed a good editor. The writing is very good, but the story jumps around in time to no purpose, and is numbingly repetitive. The last quarter of the book does little more than show in action what we already know from hearsay and narration, and leaves a few loose ends that would have given a more satisfying resolution.
This is richly detailed work of fiction with beautifully drawn characters and an elaborate plot.
Yes, I loved the author's use of words and style.
The well-rounded characters and humor, along with the mystery story and unexpected twists.
No, but I will again --he is amazing; his use of accents and tone are awe-inspiring.
Too many to mention.
If you love stories with interesting characters and slow-developing but well reasoned plots read this!
Really enjoyed this book, the characters and the history BUT after finishing I did some research and realized I had missed a lot by not being able to see the drawings and understanding the correlation between the stars and the story.
Anna Wetherell and Emery Staines taking drugs together! The ending was sort of a shock when it happened; I didn't expect it.....not the action of the ending, just the end of the book. I didn't expect it to end when it did, thought I'd made a mistake in listening.
I don't remember. He was terrific.
Anna. She was sort of a mystery all along. Some characters I just don't remember and/or what part they played in the story.
This book grew on me. I couldn't believe it would carry it self for so long, but in the end, it did. I MISS the characters; loved the main ones in particular, and had no idea I would. We traveled in NZ two years ago so knowing the geography (we were in all the places mentioned) was very fun. Also imagining a gold rush in a country other than the U.S. was interesting; I'd never read about one elsewhere. I was surprised whoring/a whore were so casually accepted there too. Also loved that Eleanor Catton, such a YOUNG WOMAN writer, could get into the heads of men like she did; brilliant, and, also that at her age she could write as insightfully as she did. Highly recommended despite the fact I didn't like it until probably the middle. I love audiobooks for that reason, I almost always give them a good long chance.
I read a lot, and when I can't read, I listen to books. This has a wonderful narrator, but the story is so slow and repetitive that by a few hours into it, I didn't care about any of the characters or the mystery the author was trying to develop. Any comparisons to Dickens are misplaced. This book is pure tedium.
If it weren't for Audible I'd never get any reading done.
The Luminaries is a great read for anyone who enjoys 19th-century British novels. Catton's prose is of a decidedly Victorian bent, beautiful descriptions spilling out as a Wilkie Collins-type plot unfolds. Now, I read the Woman in White recently and ended up angry at its cheap coincidences, but The Luminaries doesn't have any of those. For most of the book it's very funny and a real page turner, even with its formal prose style. There's also a fascinating portrayal of early New Zealand society, which indeed was the author's aim.
What it does have is a weird structure in which little pieces of the whole plot drip out for 800pp., followed by a rush to the finish that doesn't even answer all the reader's questions. Upon finishing I went online and was both relieved and annoyed to find that the unexplained pieces of the plot are just that. There's also an astrological theme throughout that I confess I couldn't follow (even looking at the charts at the head of each section in the print book, which the audiobook of course omits).
Mark Meadows may be the very best narrator I've ever listened to, as he switches effortlessly through a variety of British, Scottish and Irish accents.
Without the "magic". It seemed like an unexplained solution to what could have been a really good story.
I would have had him not read the longitudinal coordinates. It was very off-putting in an audio book. I wanted to get rid of the book in the first 5 minutes.
It was a well woven story that got clunky at the end and left me feeling disappointed that I spent 30 hours listening to it.
"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.
"I tried but failed to like this book"
I really struggled through this book, mainly because I just didn't care about ANY of its characters and the story wasn't gripping enough to engage my interest as it winds its way painfully slowly from beginning to damp squib ending. I didn't bother trying to understand the astrological aspect, though maybe had I read the novel rather than listened to it I might have got more from that. The chapter headings becoming progressively longer than the shortening chapters was tiresome. The way the story turns back on itself annoyed me, too, because it made me feel I wasn't getting anywhere despite devoting so many hours of my time listening to the book, hearing about the same few events from too many different perspectives. There is no emotional centre and the story ultimately doesn't seem to matter, since it just fizzles out. Seems to me the writer is more concerned with form and being clever, the novel as an intellectual exercise, which makes it shallow and heartless. I formed no attachment to any of the (too) many characters because they are not written as real people but the embodiment of astrological signs. If they adapt the book for the screen, which is inevitable, they should film it like the recent "Anna Karenina", a play on a theatrical stage.
The skill of the reader was all that kept me going to the end. I suspect I would have abandoned the book had I been reading rather than listening. So yes, I would listen to another of his narrations.
I was disappointed because I had high hopes going in. Normally I love long, meaty novels such as Hilary Mantel's "Wolf Hall" and "Bring up the Bodies", and have previously enjoyed 19th C pastiche such as Charles Palliser's "The Quincunx". I was frustrated that this novel puts form and structure above pace and narrative drive. I was annoyed that the final section (after the conclusion of the trial) adds little or nothing to the story to justify dragging out its length.
I did enjoy the period New Zealand setting and background detail about gold mining. Eleanor Catton is young and very talented, I am sure she will develop as a writer and produce something remarkable and enjoyable.
"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?
"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.
"Gripping tale with a strong sense of place"
I would listen to it again if only to go over some of the details and see how it all hangs together.
I enjoyed the historical setting and the slow way the story unfolded. Trying to work out the chronological order of events was also an enjoyable challenge.
I enjoyed the scene where Walter Moody is reading some letters he's found. That's when events started to fall into place.
I thought the narration of this book was outstanding - there are lots of different characters and Mark Meadows brought each one to life with different accents and voices.
"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
"A captivating listen"
Well plotted, a great tale, amazing weaving of characters, plot meanders and comes back on itself, intriguing, narrator is SO good !
"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
"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!
"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.
Report Inappropriate Content
If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.