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)
I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - Salinger ^(;,;)^
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.
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.
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.
Destined to join that long and distinguished line of celebrated, and unread, novels?
Eleanor Catton is a fine writer, but seemingly steeped in the school of the nineteenth century masters. Her language and skills of prose are evident, but over the heads of the average reader today (I count myself included).
The 'astrology' theme, and the waning/waxing phases of the moon, in which the plot is structured is clearly beyond my ability - and inclination - to comprehend.
(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.
"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.
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