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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 (1303 )
5 star
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3 star
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Overall
3.6 (1145 )
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3 star
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Story
4.1 (1123 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
 (150)
2 star
 (56)
1 star
 (53)
Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    Vanessa 11-14-13
    Vanessa 11-14-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
    9
    ratings
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    26
    6
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    Story
    "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.

    8 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Vicky Prince Rupert, British Columbia, Canada 12-22-13
    Vicky Prince Rupert, British Columbia, Canada 12-22-13 Member Since 2013

    Tell us about yourself!

    HELPFUL VOTES
    43
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    68
    35
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    4
    2
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    Story
    "What a great, original book"
    What made the experience of listening to The Luminaries the most enjoyable?

    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.


    Any additional comments?

    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.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    james d. thomas 10-28-13 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    61
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    65
    14
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    2
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    "Best of the Year"

    (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.

    6 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jack Castleisland, Ireland 11-13-13
    Jack Castleisland, Ireland 11-13-13 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
    8
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    6
    5
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    0
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    Story
    "It was great until the last chapter"

    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.

    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Celia Topanga, CA, United States 11-10-13
    Celia Topanga, CA, United States 11-10-13 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
    39
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    102
    33
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    2
    5
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "needlessly obscure"

    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.

    4 of 6 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
    7
    ratings
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    Story
    "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.

    7 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    HIII 10-27-13
    HIII 10-27-13 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    272
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    252
    150
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    27
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    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 11 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
    27
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    56
    4
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    1
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    Story
    "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 16 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Katie United States 02-10-14
    Katie United States 02-10-14 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    7
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    53
    9
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
    0
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    Story
    "Really hard to get into"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    This story is just really really long. The narrator does a good job but the story just isn't particularly interesting after the first few hours. It would have been much better if the length was trimmed. The story was too convoluted.
    Also, there were too many characters - it was really hard to 1) keep track of them 2) care what they were doing


    Would you ever listen to anything by Eleanor Catton again?

    Maybe - the plot premise was interesting, it was just issue with length & number of characters


    Would you listen to another book narrated by Mark Meadows?

    Yes - he did his best to keep the tone interesting


    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kimberly Grants Pass, OR, United States 01-09-14
    Kimberly Grants Pass, OR, United States 01-09-14 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
    4
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    47
    22
    FOLLOWERS
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    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Boring!!"
    What would have made The Luminaries better?

    Too long winded and it took too long to go anywhere


    Has The Luminaries turned you off from other books in this genre?

    no


    How did the narrator detract from the book?

    The accent was a bit thick and I was easily distracted.


    What character would you cut from The Luminaries?

    I did not like any character


    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
Sort by:
  • JD
    United Kingdom
    11/28/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "very slow and boring"
    Would you ever listen to anything by Eleanor Catton again?

    definitely not


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

    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.


    9 of 11 people found this review helpful
  • steven
    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.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Darren
    St Helens
    12/13/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Fantastic narration, overlong story"
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    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


    Would you ever listen to anything by Eleanor Catton again?

    Probably not. Thought she was trying too hard


    What about Mark Meadows’s performance did you like?

    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).


    Was The Luminaries worth the listening time?

    It filled up a very long plane journey


    Any additional comments?

    No

    5 of 6 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
  • 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.

    9 of 12 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
  • 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
  • Martina
    Freising, Germany
    11/19/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Gold Digger"
    Where does The Luminaries rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Right behind my Top 10


    What did you like best about this story?

    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.


    What about Mark Meadows’s performance did you like?

    The german accent of Mr Loewenthal and the narrators easy flow.


    Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Neither, rather astound and curious, though I found the vehemence and fussing of some of the characters quite funny


    Any additional comments?

    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

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Kevin
    stackport, United Kingdom
    11/9/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "5 star"

    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.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • S.E.
    Spain
    11/1/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Tedious. Can't think why this is a prize winner!"
    What did you like best about The Luminaries? What did you like least?

    Excellent narrator.....shame about the book! Goodness...what a disappointment! I rarely give up on books but this one was exceptionally tedious. I found I really didn't care what happened and to whom and therefore did not engage with the characters or the plot! I wonder what was going on in the minds of the judges....I don't always like/enjoy their choices but have always managed to finish the books....this one was exceptionally boring and I gave up!


    What was most disappointing about Eleanor Catton’s story?

    THE STORY! THE CHARACTERS! THE MISERABLE SETTING!


    Would you listen to another book narrated by Mark Meadows?

    Definitely! A very fine narrator!


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

    Please don't write another like this!


    Any additional comments?

    Enough said!

    5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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