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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 (1345 )
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4.1 (1159 )
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Grey Todd San Francisco, CA 12-23-13
    Grey Todd San Francisco, CA 12-23-13 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    21
    ratings
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    12
    5
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    "Great book made even better by epic performance"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I found the audio book narrator, Mark Meadows, to be marvelous! His ability with accents and in particular his delicious interpretation of Lydia was inspired, and his excellent character distinctions did a great deal to help my own understanding of, and ability to differentiate between the many characters. Bravo, sir!


    Any additional comments?

    This is an exceptionally well-written book, but fair warning, it has a complicated, non-linear plot requiring (on my part) taking notes on the characters, places, times and relationships both revealed and secret between each of these elements.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    P. Bergh NH 12-16-13
    P. Bergh NH 12-16-13 Member Since 2013

    There's always time for reading

    HELPFUL VOTES
    102
    ratings
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    23
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    Story
    "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.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Stuart 12-14-13
    Stuart 12-14-13

    Reading opens up new worlds.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
    ratings
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    11
    7
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
    4
    Overall
    Performance
    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.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    linda United States 12-07-13
    linda United States 12-07-13 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
    254
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    26
    10
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    27
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Mental Ouroboros"

    On the wild fringes of New Zealand, a hermit dies, a prostitute overdoses, and a wealthy young man vanishes in the course of a single, stormy evening. Set in a rugged prospecting town during the gold rush of the mid-19th century, The Luminaries weaves 12 lifelines around these events, forming a vivid tableau of love, betrayal, and suffering.

    Eleanor Catton’s novel, highly structured and marked by idiosyncrasies, is an undeniable tour de force – a whopping 834 pages or almost 30 hours aurally – it mixes a highly modern framework with a Dickensian tenor to form an eccentric and fresh piece of literature. I won’t comment on the peculiarities of the novel’s organization as that point has been belabored extensively, but I will reiterate the comment about the difficulty of its translation into an audio format.

    Without reference pages, the novel is unwieldy - it’s a bit like trying to understand the shape of an elephant only by groping along blindly. The protagonists (12 primary characters and a phalanx of secondaries) take turns telling their narrative, and for the audience, orienting their myriad relations proves challenging. It’s not impossible, however. The Luminaries requires more attention than most audiobooks but given the size of her cast, it’s hardly surprising. For me, the narrator in particular was magnificent and more than made up for any delayed comprehension.

    One of the most prominent themes is the weight astrology bears on plot progression. Each successive chapter and its action take place under an advancing star sign. As a reader unaware of all but the most basic horoscopy, I had the putout sensation that some significant portion of the plot was being acted out behind a curtain of my ignorance.

    But even unaware of the zodiac subtext, I'm still in awe of Catton’s 12 luminaries. They encompass a portion of New Zealand’s historical diversity and she aptly lays out their personalities in a fashion reminiscent of a diviner skilled with a deck of tarot cards. She painstakingly draws each man’s strength only to flip the trait on its head to reveal the intrinsic weakness. It’s marvelously done – the construction is obvious in retrospect but natural in context. Catton doesn’t merely paste these men onto their astrological signs, but allows them to evolve organically, maintaining a coherent and believable sense of their character and personal history.

    The ending was the only aspect that elicited genuine complaint from my corner. After such a long climb to the top, the weightless conclusion galled - at first because I wanted something more substantial, then because I knew it aligned with the rest of the book. The finale: ephemeral and circular, indistinct and directed by ineffable forces, works seamlessly with the spirit of everything that falls before it. I’ve since realized (reluctantly so) that demanding greater closure from her phenomenal work is as futile as demanding concrete answers from celestial bodies.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lynch Kentwood, MI, United States 11-04-13
    Lynch Kentwood, MI, United States 11-04-13 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    36
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    "Awful!"

    Based on all the great reviews I had really high hopes for this book but I just did something I have never done before. I turned this book off and there is no way I am finishing it. After nearly 5 hours it has gone no where, and accomplished nothing!

    In addition to the painfully slow plot line, the narrator is so monotonous I want to stick red hot pokers in my ears.

    I know that a lot of people liked this book and that my one sour review is not likely to sway anyone from listening to it but don't say I didn't tell you so if you decide to embark on this perilous journey through tedium.

    5 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rose 10-30-13
    Rose 10-30-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
    15
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    155
    6
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    0
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    Story
    "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 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sue 11-09-13
    Sue 11-09-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
    ratings
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    8
    3
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    0
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    Story
    "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 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Elizabith A Biber 08-23-15
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    10
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Mixed feelings"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I would not recommend this audio book to most people. The story is long and convoluted. It gets a bit tedious over time. I would probably recommend a hard copy rather than an audio version as it is a little easier to keep things straight w/ a hard copy, as you can go back to check on previous story details more easily. The audio copy that I downloaded from audible was missing most of the last chapter. I down loaded it twice so I know it wasn't a download issue.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Turtle 05-20-15
    Turtle 05-20-15
    HELPFUL VOTES
    21
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    127
    22
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    1
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    Performance
    Story
    "the narrator is brilliant!"
    Have you listened to any of Mark Meadows’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    this book has many characters and a story that keeps getting more side stories so without the brilliant narration of Mark Meadows it would have been agony to follow.


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

    I can't say any of the characters were likable, but most were very plausible.


    Any additional comments?

    it was a study in human character,regardless where it is, but also shined a light on the gold rash era of New Zealand.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    G. Hewitt AL, United States 05-04-15
    G. Hewitt AL, United States 05-04-15 Member Since 2015

    Alabama Mom

    ratings
    REVIEWS
    2
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "not for audio"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    a map and outline


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

    no


    How could the performance have been better?

    I am still interested in this title, but this is a story with many layers of stories embedded within. Well, I am 2 hours into it and so far this is what I've got. I listen to many, many audiobooks but this one is just not working for me. I need visuals to make this one work. I don't walk away from books very often, but I'm walking from this one.


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

    confusion


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
Sort by:
  • Simon
    8/27/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Certainly clever (and long) but was it good?"

    I really really wanted to love this book. It's so cleverly structured and the premise is excellent, but it was so so long (with some extremely flabby parts) that I really found the second half a chore. I am left wondering whether it was worth it out not....
    However, the narration was first class, so if you've got the time, go for it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Garry
    Bedford, Bedfordshire, United Kingdom
    8/22/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Wheels within wheels: great plot - great reading"
    Any additional comments?

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Yoyo
    8/12/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Definitely worth persevering"

    I have read this book once, listened once, and will go through it again for the pleasure of exploring a few of the many vistas of knowledge it opens up. Once I had reconciled myself to the fact the book offers a spare and dispassionate account, rather than inducing emotional connections, I loved the structural intricacies of the story and the galactic dance of the characters.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • markusace
    7/20/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Boring"
    What would have made The Luminaries better?

    Interesting story and better narration


    What will your next listen be?

    The Olive Tree


    How could the performance have been better?

    Inject some interest with voices


    What character would you cut from The Luminaries?

    The weer all very uninteresting


    Any additional comments?

    I listened to 5 hours of this with my wife on a long car journey. we both could not get into the story it was like a boring life story. The voicing was monotonous two and nothing seemed to happen just strange characters encountering other strange characters. I thought 5 hours was long enough .

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Mrs. S. M. Bebbington
    Stockport
    7/13/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Great story."

    Great story made all the more enjoyable thanks to excellent narration. would recommend this to anyone who is struggling to find time to read it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • searls
    6/19/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Long and unnecessarily confusing."

    Found very hard to get into it. Comes right in the end but it's a big commitment. The narrator is superb.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Amazon Customer
    UK
    5/13/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Overly complicated"

    I found the story to be overly complicated and too long. At the end i didn't get a feeling of satisfaction from all the loose ends being tied up.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Taylor H
    5/12/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "One heck of a performance!"

    So many characters convincingly voiced by one man- incredible!

    The story was very long but held my attention throughout - I do feel like I missed something though, the ending didn't tie everything up neatly enough!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • mitchell
    4/24/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Almost regretted, now repent!"

    I read alot of the reviews even though this book was recommended by my dad. I initally was gutted I had bought it as the reviews were not all that good complaining of mixed up timeline, too many names etc. Tosh! Its a brilliant book. Its a convoluted story I grant but as it ties up its delicious nuggets of fun info that makes the beginning even better than it was first time. Its a murder mystery, a history of mining and a look at the late 1800's. I love it, super characters and each one is recognisable by the voice they are given. Excellent narration he's a real gem!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Mrs Sarah Kruschandl
    4/1/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Confusing starter but such a clever plot"
    What made the experience of listening to The Luminaries the most enjoyable?

    I would have given up on this book had I been reading it. The plot is so cleverly constructed that it is only near the end that the novel feels satisfying. Upon finishing it I wanted to start again - i don't feel like that about many books. A work of genius.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    It took a while to warm to many of the characters. I don't want to say who my favourite character was - it would be a spoiler.


    Which scene did you most enjoy?

    On reflection the first scene is the one that is most interesting. All the characters are together. As you get to know their secrets throughout the novel, it was this first scene I came back to.


    If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    There is more hidden in the New Zealand mines than gold.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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