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The Luminaries | [Eleanor Catton]

The Luminaries

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.
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Publisher's Summary

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

What the Critics Say

"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)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.6 (948 )
5 star
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3.6 (831 )
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Story
4.1 (814 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Darwin8u Mesa, AZ, United States 11-08-13
    Darwin8u Mesa, AZ, United States 11-08-13 Member Since 2011

    A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Structure = clever, but prose = meh."

    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:

    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
    XXXXXXXXXXX
    XXXXXXXXXX
    XXXX
    XXX
    XX
    X
    x
    x
    .
    .

    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:

    11111111111111111111111111111111
    2222222222223333333334444555

    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.

    26 of 36 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jeremy Balmain, Australia 12-18-13
    Jeremy Balmain, Australia 12-18-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A captivating tale, beautifully written"

    I did enjoy this book. The narrator did a great job bringing it to life. Ms Catton has written a story that lingers in the memory after creating a vivid snap-shot of life on the 19th century New Zealand gold fields. It starts from small beginnings and gradually more and more characters and their stories (and perspectives/involvement) are added. It's really well written book and certainly has a poignancy to it.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    P. Bergh NH 12-16-13
    P. Bergh NH 12-16-13 Member Since 2004

    There's always time for reading

    HELPFUL VOTES
    92
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    20
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    "Well read, twisty plot, great history, but l-o-n-g"

    I enjoyed the Luminaries: a fascinating account of gold fields of New Zealand. The characters are all colorful, very Dickens-like, and the book is very well read. The biggest challenge is that there are many characters and it is very long. Even listening regularly, it is easy to get a bit confused, particularly as the book jumps around date-wise a bit. That being said, it is a really good book and deserved of its awards and accolades.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Stuart St. Catharines, ON, Canada 12-14-13
    Stuart St. Catharines, ON, Canada 12-14-13 Member Since 2013

    Reading opens up new worlds.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
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    Story
    "Mezmerizing!"
    What made the experience of listening to The Luminaries the most enjoyable?

    The reader was able to bring all of the characters to life. The prose is so sumptuous and detailed -- you get lost in the moment, drinking in the settings and descriptions.


    What did you like best about this story?

    I loved the way that the story folded into itself -- truth revealed at the crux between the past and the future. The book celebrates language. I enjoyed the names of all the characters and places -- had a Dickensian onomatopoeia.


    What about Mark Meadows’s performance did you like?

    He was able to bring the voices to life in all the languages and accents.


    If you could take any character from The Luminaries out to dinner, who would it be and why?

    It would have to be Emery Staines -- the most pleasant, optimistic and positive of the cast.


    Any additional comments?

    I was sorry that the story ended. I wanted to hear more about the resolution -- what happened to the Widow Carver. Did the Maori walk free? Was there love at long last for Anna and Emery? But like a bountiful meal, I left the table sated with much to digest. It was a marvellous listen.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Vanessa madera, CA, United States 11-14-13
    Vanessa madera, CA, United States 11-14-13 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Minority opinion: drab and monotonous"
    Would you try another book from Eleanor Catton and/or Mark Meadows?

    Not if I have to put up with the endless litany of unremarkable and unlikable characters


    What could Eleanor Catton have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    Give me a character or two that I could like.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    Not applicable


    If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from The Luminaries?

    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


    Any additional comments?

    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.

    [Shrug]

    Back to the drawing board.

    5 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sue Calgary, AB, Canada 11-09-13
    Sue Calgary, AB, Canada 11-09-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
    ratings
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    "Very disappointing read"
    Any additional comments?

    Only my stubbornness in never abandoning a book made me listen to the bitter end. I love long books, but the only thing that deserved a star was the narrator. The bouncing back and forth was often unclear and confusing, and constant astronomical and astrological references made no sense and contributed nothing. The trial was interesting, but that's about it. The ending was terrible. What a disappointment!

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    HIII Grants Pass, OR, United States 10-27-13
    HIII Grants Pass, OR, United States 10-27-13 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    241
    ratings
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    249
    150
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    28
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    Story
    "and the wheel goes around and round"

    This story is told and retold slightly different while strongly the same. In spite of the multiple characters, Ms Catton's descriptions create clear distinctions avoiding confusion over who is who. The book is very different thanks to the distinctive writing style. Be warned: if you decide to listen to this book - it is very long and repetitive but there is no way it could be any different. I thought I was at the end only to realize that was not the case. I understand the story, the plot, the character and the achievement of the complex writing but I do not understand the end. So the wheel goes around again?

    7 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Madelaine Provo, UT, United States 10-27-13
    Madelaine Provo, UT, United States 10-27-13 Listener Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    26
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    "Took me a while to get into it - then I loved it"

    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.

    10 of 15 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rose KEY WEST, FL, United States 10-30-13
    Rose KEY WEST, FL, United States 10-30-13 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
    13
    ratings
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    121
    3
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    0
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    "Tried to like this book but story is very slow"
    Any additional comments?

    The prose is wonderful and the narration is faultless but the story is just too slow to keep me interested in returning to it.

    8 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Harriet Kailua Kona, HI, United States 11-13-13
    Harriet Kailua Kona, HI, United States 11-13-13 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    6
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    2
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    "Overblown, disappointing"
    Would you try another book from Eleanor Catton and/or Mark Meadows?

    no


    What was most disappointing about Eleanor Catton’s story?

    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.


    Did Mark Meadows do a good job differentiating all the characters? How?

    He did what he could; he did make the blustery, arrogant characters very unpleasant


    If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from The Luminaries?

    Not so much deleting a scene as removing the verbal bloat within them


    Any additional comments?

    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.

    6 of 9 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 11-20 of 79 results PREVIOUS1238NEXT
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  • Faiergreen
    Lavenham, United Kingdom
    11/20/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Good narration, but I lost the will to carry on."
    What disappointed you about The Luminaries?

    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.


    Would you ever listen to anything by Eleanor Catton again?

    Probably not.


    What did you like about the performance? What did you dislike?

    Performance was clear and easy to listen to.


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    Disappointment and wondering if it was just me who didn't get it?


    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Sarah
    Melton Mowbray, United Kingdom
    11/22/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Doesn't work as an audiobook"
    What would have made The Luminaries better?

    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.


    What will your next listen be?

    It is The Greenfinch by Donna Tartt - I'm hooked already.


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    Frustration


    Any additional comments?

    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!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • raymond
    MILTON KEYNES, United Kingdom
    10/24/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "stunning narration"
    What made the experience of listening to The Luminaries the most enjoyable?

    Mark Meadows bought this book to life, all his characters voice never faultered though this book.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Luminaries?

    Finding Mr. Stains


    What about Mark Meadows’s performance did you like?

    A brilliant peformance through out.!!!!!!!!!!!!!


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    The whole period was beautifully portrayed by the author,her mentor must have been Charles Dickens


    Any additional comments?

    The Auther well deserved her award fo this piece of period art.

    8 of 10 people found this review helpful
  • James
    stockport, United Kingdom
    11/20/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Borrinnnggggggg!!!!!!!"
    What disappointed you about The Luminaries?

    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!


    Would you ever listen to anything by Eleanor Catton again?

    Not. A. Chance.


    Would you be willing to try another one of Mark Meadows’s performances?

    Maybe (?)


    If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from The Luminaries?

    All of them.


    Any additional comments?

    Don't waste 40 hours of your life.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Julie
    Worcester, United Kingdom
    5/26/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Utterly Undecided"
    Any additional comments?

    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?!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Tony
    ROADE, United Kingdom
    3/15/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "What's the story"
    What would have made The Luminaries better?

    If a listener had half a chance of understanding what the story was supposed to be about without being bored half to death.


    Has The Luminaries put you off other books in this genre?

    Yes


    What didn’t you like about Mark Meadows’s performance?

    It was as bland as the tale.


    You didn’t love this book--but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    No


    Any additional comments?

    I have no doubt that some people will find this tale compelling but I don't believe I am in the minority when I say I found it impossible to follow and incredibly slow. If I had read the book I doubt I would got past page 2.
    It is becoming a trend that book reviews are in the main by similar authors who are hardly likely to offer any real critique about the book in question.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Amazon Customer
    Hastings, United Kingdom
    1/1/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Don't understand how this won a prize"
    What disappointed you about The Luminaries?

    Slow poor story line. Couldn't get past the 2nd chapter. Wished I hadn't wasted my money.


    Has The Luminaries put you off other books in this genre?

    Yes


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Steven
    Auckland, New Zealand
    12/23/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Mr
    Kidderminster, United Kingdom
    12/12/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Disappointingly Dull."
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    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.


    Would you ever listen to anything by Eleanor Catton again?

    Probably not


    Which character – as performed by Mark Meadows – was your favourite?

    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.


    Do you think The Luminaries needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

    Good grief no!


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Sarah
    Newton Abbot, United Kingdom
    11/19/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Excellent Booker choice"
    What made the experience of listening to The Luminaries the most enjoyable?

    The reader was excellent and managed to make all the characters sound individual. He made it much easier to remember each person in the story


    What did you like best about this story?

    The author is very clever at telling the story of each character by returning to them in the past and giving their back story and knitting the strands together


    What does Mark Meadows bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

    His use of different voices is really superb


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    The chinaman's trial when he couldn't understand what on earth was going on!


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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