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)
A remarkable accomplishment -- no question: the landscape, the history, the twists of the various mysteries. But there was no character that pulled me in, no one I was rooting for, empathizing with, even caring about. The performance, however, was masterful and kept me listening to the end.
I feel a little sorry for anyone who reads the print version because they would be deprived of the enjoyment of Mark Meadows brilliant work. So many varied characters and yet the listener knew exactly who was speaking every time.
In addition, the wonderful language of the book, a vocabulary from the past made one feel that book had been written in 1865! That may not be everyone's cup of tea but I enjoyed it enormously.
Emory Stains, even though he appeared late was refreshingly gentle and open. His appearance seemed to light up the place.
That would be impossible to say. All interpretations were wonderful.
Anna Weatheral because I would like to know more about life for women in that era.
Very long, felt repetitive, many, many minute details to remember. I lost interest.
I tried! The characters are cardboard stick figures and utterly unsympathetic. The author is in love with her own cleverness and is too busy constructing a "Rashomon" type narrative. Stories can be interesting when viewed from different perspectives but twelve perspectives are too many. I just got bored and didn't care enough about the characters to stick it out. Another disappointing Booker Prize read
I like books that I can get into right away. Unfortunately this was not one of those books. The narration wasn't what I expected, and the beginning was way too slow to even continue listening. I thought I'd give it a chance from reading the other reviews...wish I didnt waste my credit.
The explanations at the beginnings of the chapters made me think of an outline, a technique that might help in writing the story but only annoying as part of it.
It got very good reviews, but couldn't hold my attention.
The narrator did a pretty fair job but had little to work with.
I was disappointed overall.
Excellent intricate storytelling. Complicated enough to engage your brain, but not so complicated you get lost in the audiobook format.
I give this book three stars not because I believe it is an "average" book, but because as I progressed through this novel I found myself either completely loving it or loathing it. I found the beginning very tedious, as there is an enormous cast of characters, and their melding, back-stories, interweaving, and relationship is a long and over detailed process. The beginning is a teeth gritting process and I actually had my doubts about continuing. I think the beginning is so hard because you do not really relate to any of the characters or feel for them until the middle of the book.
However by the middle of the book I'm hooked. The characters go from just telling stories to living the story and this is the best part. By the end, I love the flash backs and love that you get to know the dead man, for whom you think you know already. I am not sure if this book would ever be on my read again list but overall I enjoyed it.
The book's structure is brilliant, and Eleanor Catton's command of the language incredibly precise. Her sensitive characterisations and gripping story offer a wonderful glimpse into nineteenth-century New Zealand.
Mark Meadows's use of a broad spectrum of accents amounts to an incredibly accurate rendition of class and cultural difference, and helps the reader keep the characters apart very easily. A very convincing and enjoyable performance.
"Stars a bit annoying"
No, far too long and so many different characters.
Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall. In the first half of the Luminaries there is mostly dialog, atmosphere and character and not much action. However it is just as finely crafted.
No, but this is brilliant narration. He captures the accents and charcters just right.
Not all that glitters is gold.
The elaborate structure of the novel gets in the way of the plot increasingly so that near the end of the book the reader is left scratching their head as to what is taking place. That's such a shame as the rest of the book is so well written and enjoyable to follow.
"Very interesting but. . . . ."
Yes, with a proviso . . try this i think you will find it interesting. A narrative of events, a good tale, with some interesting touches of writing style.
Not the individual character bit again! I see the book as a whole, individuals interact to produce a complete unit.
Argh! See my previous comment
Moved me to turn to the next page.
Well crafted and original. On the face of it a narrative tale surrounding a murder and itssolution but told with original style and skill. Not certain i would read another book by the author in the near future, maybe next year.
"Life is too short..."
I am struggling to find anything to say about this, other than the narrator is excellent. The writing is obviously the Booker-winning feature, but the 'story' is so slowly and painfully extracted it's hard to maintain interest unless you're able to listen for very long periods, which I am not.
Yes the time was well spent, I really wanted to hear the whole story
Yes I would recommend, but not strongly. Eleanor Catton was done a wonderful job in writing this book, I congratulate her on her success. Every book is not loved equally by everyone
Mark Meadows did an excellent job with the various characters, BUT a New Zealander would have been great. I am a New Zealander and the pronunciations of words such as Hokitika, Kaniere, totara, paheka grated on me. I am not a speaker of te Reo Maori, so I am not sure how good or bad their reaction would be. It did detract from my enjoyment of this book.
"Don't understand how this won a prize"
Slow poor story line. Couldn't get past the 2nd chapter. Wished I hadn't wasted my money.
"Long and at points a bit confusing, but worth it!"
A long book with some interesting themes and a clever structure and style that reflects the planets and the phases of the moon. An intriguing mystery story with a fantastic setting and some great characters. It felt a little too long in the middle section for me, and at parts (particularly the beginning) it was a bit confusing, but it is definitely worth the listen for the story and the brilliant way in which everything ties together, and the way the fates of every character are connected. It's also narrated extremely well.
The story begins with the arrival of Walter Moody in Hokitika, New Zealand, in 1866. He walks in on a meeting of twelve men at the Crown Hotel, and is soon pulled into their discussion of a series of events, and of the sinister man who seems to be behind it all somehow: Francis Carver.
This section of the novel immediately drew me in; mysterious events, a group of such different characters all driven together by fate, a historical setting and a fascinating look into a New Zealand Gold Rush town – all great elements! The events themselves are related in a slightly odd way; each person describes what they experienced to Moody. This isn’t related in direct speech from the person telling their tale, but described in third person as a summary of the events they have just told to Moody. Within these stories, other characters might tell their own story, sometimes also related in third person rather than direct speech.
This can become quite confusing in the audiobook, as it is harder to flick back to find out whose point of view we are seeing events from, and because events are often told in the narrator’s voice rather than a recognisable character’s voice. This isn’t a fault with the audiobook, but is a result of the slightly odd way that the story is told in the beginning section. There are also moments where the reader appears to have been given more information than Moody has been told – for example, would a man describing to another man something that happened to him really break off mid story to deeply analyse another person’s character?
After the meeting of the men at the Crown Hotel, the story continues and slowly little things begin to be revealed as the chain of events is unravelled. It becomes clear that every detail mentioned in the story is significant, that everything ties in to the greater story that’s being told. This is extremely well planned and executed, and I really enjoyed seeing all the different threads pulling together. This doesn’t happen all at once, at the end of the book, but steadily and surely throughout the story. It’s carefully and brilliantly done.
The sheer amount of characters in this book is a little confusing to begin with. I had a hard time keeping track of who was who, something that is no doubt a bigger problem in the audiobook because you can’t flip to the front for the cast of characters. Thankfully, the narrator is very skilled at giving each character a distinct voice, so though I couldn’t always remember at first what a specific person’s background and profession was, I always knew exactly who was speaking. The large cast of characters becomes a strength later on in the story once the reader has wrapped their head around who is who, when the interactions and connections between different people, the little co-incidences, and being able to see a situation from all sides, really brings the whole thing to life. Unfortunately, some characters were more rounded out than others, and some who were explored deeply at the beginning were almost forgotten later. In the end, perhaps there simply were too many people for one book to deal with.
The main characters are each connected to a celestial body, astrology being an important theme running through the novel. The structure of the novel was another aspect that reflected the movements of the heavens, in this case the phases of the moon. The early chapters start off very long, becoming shorter and shorter in proportion to the waning of the moon until the final chapters are mere slivers of the beginning sections. This structure is alluded to on the front cover of the book. I really liked this and thought it was a clever touch, but there were some points where the story perhaps suffered a bit from the need to stick to this structure. Most notably this was in the middle, where the story began to drag a bit, for me, and at the very end, where the chapters were so short the introductory sentences at the beginning of each one had to sum up all the events, telling us rather than showing us what happened.
However, what I did love about this approach was the strong fatalistic feeling that this connection with the heavens gave to the story. There are also many references to the paranormal – ghosts, séances, astrology, visions, weird connections between people. Even the name ‘Crown Hotel’ has associations with Dracula. I loved these aspects, and I particularly liked how many of the stranger happenings were explained logically, but not in a way that entirely wrapped up everything. This leaves the reader with the feeling that there are still mysteries in the world, and forces that move us beyond our control.
The Luminaries is an interesting book, different in many ways from things I’ve read before. I appreciated the clever structure reflecting the themes and ideas in the story, as well as the possible supernatural elements and the feeling of fate guiding the characters’ interactions. I do think the book was too long and that the story would have benefited from some cuts, especially in the middle section, and in some places the book was perhaps a little too clever for its own good. But overall this is a fascinating and impressive read in which everything is connected and all events pull together into a satisfying ending. The narrator reads the audiobook extremely well and I really enjoyed listening to it!
I received a review copy of this audiobook in exchange for an honest review.
"Slow and dull"
I know this book has won all kinds of awards but I have given up after about 6 hours in which almost nothing has happened. It's a story (sort of) within a story withing a story. So A gets told a story by B who heard a story from C who once spoke to D.... etc. It breaks the cardinal writing rule of "show, don't tell", and simply put me to sleep. I didn't find the writing good enough that I was prepared to sacrifice story for the pleasure of style.
I wasn't wild about the narrator, either. He does direct speech extremely well, with convincing accents and expression, but gets into a sing-song rhythm with narration and description that I found irksome.
This is a personal preference - I'm sure there are plenty of readers who would love this. But if you like stories with pace, some action and suspense, this might not be for you.
"Loved it - kept taking detours to listen longer!"
Ignoring the silly questions audible poses for reviewers, this was a fantastic audio book. I honestly don't think I could have read it as book, but fantastic as a well read audio book. Mark Meadows' narration helped me follow the story in what is a complex story by his excellent characterisation. Also, if I had been reading this I think it would have been too daunting a task, but as I listen in my car too, from and at work, I found myself absorbed by the story.
I am not normally a fan of anything within the murder/mystery/whodunnit genre as I feel so stupid at never working it out whilst everyone else tells me they knew after the first twenty pages or so, but here, the writing and the story are so good that it really didn't matter.
Finally, I loved the fascinating detail of the era Eleanor Catton includes as it so brings the novel to life. I want to go out to New Zealand NOW!
"Unbconvincing both the story and historical sense"
The characters were well painted, and it was read well. But the story was convoluted, and hopping backwards and forwards in time with chapters identified by star and geographical detail made it difficult to follow at times. I thought there was language which would not have been used in the period - for example 'trivia'.
Yes, I think so, but I wouldn't go back to it.
I found my mind wandering while listening - the story did not engage me enough.
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