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)
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.
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.
This is my second listening. The reader does an amazing job with the voices and this complex story unfolds like an origami box.
Both the writing and the narration perfectly evoke the feeling of a mining town flush with gold, mystery and drama. The circuitous route by which the characters and their back stories are introduced and tied together keeps the interest level high. As more and more details are revealed and your first impressions are challenged and turned on end you will find yourself wanting to reach the end just so that you can re-read this tale again and catch any clues that you missed on your first go-round.
This book has found a permanent home on my bookshelf as I know that I will be re-reading it over and over. I highly recommend it to fans of Historical Fiction, Mystery, and Drama as it has plenty of all three.
The story is good and worth the 23+ hours but I had to write this review to praise the narrator for such a wonderful job. There are about 16 different characters with all types of accents; Scottish, Irish, Australian, French, etc. He mastered them all and I could always tell who was talking based on the voice. I think this is quite a feat with this particular book. I seldom notice the narrator unless they are very bad, but I wish I could give this one 6 stars.
Listening to The Luminaries is like being dropped in the midst of New Zealand’s Otago Gold Rush, blindfolded and totally without reference, and then being spun round in circles by a stranger and let loose to feel around the landscapes and stand near their inhabitants, prospectors and bankers and Chinese diggers and tattooed Māori streaming around you, the women left to pleasure and care for these teeming throngs of men nearly knocking you over as they rush this way and that, and just as you feel overwhelming lost amidst these endless characters, totally without equilibrium in this many-plotted story centered in a town where everyone wants to make it rich, Eleanor Catton comes and takes you by the shoulder and steadies you for just a moment, and you breathe in the smells of dirty men and sea water as ships wreck upon the beach and scavengers look upon the ships and you sigh and know that despite there being too much information here, maybe just too much life here, for one book to ever express, you must keep reading.
Anyone coming off of a Goldfinch buzz and wondering what their next ambitious, too-long book will be should look no further than The Luminaries. Both books are written with the crisp observations that make them so much more than plot recounted. These are stories of life, magnified. Stories of how life could be if we all drunk in details of each other’s quirks and charms, every insecurity and affect, every ugly part and every beautiful one, and then maximized them into sentence-formed still lives spilling over into paragraphs so illustrative of this human condition we’re stuck in they act like paintings on pages changing ordinary days into phenomenas, ordinary interactions into humorous, tragic, wonderful things worth documenting. This is how these books get to be close to 1,000 pages long–life magnified is a very big thing, indeed.
The Luminaries, as I’ve mentioned, is the story of New Zealand’s Otago Gold Rush, and the story of a plethora of characters drawn together by an unfortunate set of circumstances. Men in all sorts of businesses centered around profiting off of gold or the men who find it feel uneasily bamboozled, they all sense a caper of some sort, and yet trying to pin down who has down wrong when is like trying to sift the gold dust apart from the dirt. The plot is complicated, and meant to be, as that’s the fun and beauty of the thing. Also, this is a book that uses the word “whore” quite a bit. Prepare yourself for that.
Catton includes all sorts of bells and whistles, but she really didn’t need to, as her writing stands on its own. There are astrological signs and charts of each character’s place on the zodiac, and there are chapter lengths that get progressively shorter by half until it seems almost hard to keep up with all the pieces that are being put together. Unfortunately much of this is lost in the audiobook, as it could have included a .pdf with the illustrations from the book for reference. What the audiobook version gained was narrator Mark Meadows deftly juggling the varied accents required amidst the cultural mish-mash of gold rush New Zealand. I appreciate getting lost in layers of meaning as much as the next book nerd, however, and I’ll be picking up a hard copy of the book to read again for further understanding of the whole astrological subtext.
Tell us about yourself!
I went into this book for the historical fiction and came out of it thinking, that of the thousands of books I've read, this was truly written in the most original way.
The authour, by tying the character sections into the state of the moon, writing shorter sections as the moon waned, kept things moving along. At the end, a flashback explains all.
(At least so far). The book itself is epic, haunting and beautiful, filled with fascinating characters. The audio narration is surprisingly good considering the range of dialects, accents and ethnicities portrayed. Happily the narrator never loses focus from the suspenseful, convoluted and complex plot. I have read the novel twice now, and the audio is a worthy addition. Fast, fresh and funny. A memorable wallow in the "old west" of New Zealand.
While this is definitely a book that falls into the ponderous genre, it still had just enough pace to keep me interested. It created a world that was full of detail and it seemed very real. Yet it is is not perfectly formed. When the last chapter finished I had to look at the paper version to see if something had gone wrong. While some may call the ending different, it has all the hallmarks of a student rushing a paper where they have run out of time. I was left dissatisfied.
To finish on a positive note, the reader of this book was excellent, getting the many accents spot on.
7 hours in I still really didn't know who the characters were, and more importantly just didn't care. The non linear structure didn't bother me as much as the fact that there was no real protagonist. No one was really likable or all that interesting. I thought the story was needlessly complex and unjustifiably, self consciously obscure. If you're going to make something "hard to figure out" there has to be a payoff somewhere, and after 7 hours I still hadn't found one. So I just gave up. There are far better books around , despite the excellent writing.
"It was a dark and stormy novel..."
Definitely one of the most unusual books I have ever read. Essentially it is a crime story with a lot of historical fiction blended in. I think if one mixed up Thomas Hardy with Arthur Conan-Doyle one would get a similar result.
Set in a burgeoning mining town on the remote west coast of New Zealand's South Island (barely 20 years after the signing of the treaty which incorporated NZ into the British empire) the story revolves around an intriguing sequence of events and a large cast of interesting people.
Every vice is included: murder, robbery, fraud, lies, deceit, racial discrimination, battery and infanticide. There's opium, laudanum and a range of other toxic substances that are abused. There are seances, smoke and mirrors and prostitution to add spice to the lives of the people in the town. And there is love - innocent and fresh, and collusive and destructive.
The central story is complicated and is retold through the eyes of numerous characters. And it is only after it has been retold several times that the reader is able to piece the story together in its entirety. In telling the story Catton paints a comprehensive picture of life in a gold-rush town and of the early pioneers in New Zealand.
The link to astrology and the stellar references are a little obscure. Catton is a very accomplished writer and her research must have been exhaustive. Her characters are well drawn and her plot, although rather complicated, is credible and engaging.
On a dark and stormy night a young lawyer Walter Moody steps into the pub of the hotel where he has found lodgings after disembarking from a ship after a long voyage.
He interrupts a group of people having a private meeting in the bar, and so the mystery begins to unfold.
Even after 848 pages one is sad to see the narrative come to an end. The narrator is very good, juggling about five different accents throughout the novel.
"Fantastic narration, overlong story"
have to say I found this really disappointing. Firstly its really long, too long in fact, and needlessly long. The author padded out conversations way beyond what was necessary. Secondly, its written in a really unfulfilling style; explaining the second half of a story, and then going back to the beginning of it, so that everything is eventually wound up but with no sense of satisfaction or completion
Probably not. Thought she was trying too hard
He was fantastic and saved the book. There's a lot or characters and yet each on had a completely distinct voice so you you tell who was speaking without having to be constantly reminded (which the author does).
It filled up a very long plane journey
"not very impressed at all"
Not enough substance - the story line is a bit boring to be honest.
The reader was good :)
I tried extremely hard to listen to this book for approximately 5 hours. It goes absolutely nowhere and I can't possibly understand why some people have given this book such a high rating. I cannot emphasize enough how boring this book is - I have been purposely listening at night in the knowledge that the book would send me to sleep.It may get better if you listen long enough but I don't believe you should have to make an effort with a book, it should suck you in from the beginning and spit you out with a shock at the end, and I can't see this book even coming close. A slow burner doesn't adequately describe how awfully slow this book is!
Not. A. Chance.
All of them.
Don't waste 40 hours of your life.
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.
"Wheels within wheels: great plot - great reading"
This is a brilliantly constructed narrative, brilliantly narrated. Mark Meadows deserves enormous credit for revealing an intricate and complex plot with sensitivity, clarity, intelligence and 'theatrical' variety. A great performance, truly.
I simply can't make my mind up about how I feel about this book at all!! I eagerly listened to all of it but if asked what it was about - I'm not sure I would be able to answer! The narrator did a fine job and I think his efforts enabled me to get to the end of the book rather than the actual story itself! This is the vauguest review I've written but I just can't decide if I actualy liked it or not?!
It really lacks pace. I race through books I love listening to, and then often listen again, in case there are things I missed. I haven't even finished this yet. It's well written, the language is good, but it just isn't engaging. I don't care about any of the characters. I can't even remember any of their names.
He is excellent at characters, but I can't recall any of their names, because the author left me cold, none of them were memorable at all.
Good grief no!
Right behind my Top 10
She made the recklessness of the age and the gold rush come alive and hid a few nuggets of golden wisdom in it. Besides I thought that each character was so unique and plausible it was like I'd be living among them.
The german accent of Mr Loewenthal and the narrators easy flow.
Neither, rather astound and curious, though I found the vehemence and fussing of some of the characters quite funny
I do not know how Master Charles Dickens could keep one so absorbed over great lenghts, Eleanor Catton tried her best and I really liked the book still I think it calls for an abridged version which I am sure many people will enjoy
It is a long while since I gave five stars to any book, but what more can I say, its the man booker winner 2013. A brilliant book.
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