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)
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.
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.
He did what he could; he did make the blustery, arrogant characters very unpleasant
Not so much deleting a scene as removing the verbal bloat within them
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.
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?
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.
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
Maybe - the plot premise was interesting, it was just issue with length & number of characters
Yes - he did his best to keep the tone interesting
Too long winded and it took too long to go anywhere
The accent was a bit thick and I was easily distracted.
I did not like any character
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!
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.
There's always time for reading
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.
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.
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.
He was able to bring the voices to life in all the languages and accents.
It would have to be Emery Staines -- the most pleasant, optimistic and positive of the cast.
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.
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.
"Tedious. Can't think why this is a prize winner!"
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!
THE STORY! THE CHARACTERS! THE MISERABLE SETTING!
Definitely! A very fine narrator!
Please don't write another like this!
"disappointing ending but otherwise excellent"
a clever trio back in time full of betrayal and intriguing stories interwoven into the exciting new prospects for those seeking life and fortune
"super journey of mystery and colourful characters"
I really enjoyed this book. I had no trouble to keep going and the vocabulary driven action makes the plot move comfortably along. The voice actor is superb.
Fantastic cast of brilliantly conceived characters. Pure joy and fun. I loved every minute of it.
"Confusing at times but worth persevering"
There are many excellent reviews of this book, so I will not repeat anything of the story line here. I mainly listen to stories as I travel to and from work, so listen for about an hour at a time. There are a vast array of characters and initially I found it difficult to remember who was who when I started listening again, but as the story progressed and the characters developed they became like old friends and it was easier to pick up from where I'd left off. I always enjoy a story where I feel I am learning something of a different time or place, and there was a great deal of excellent and meticulously researched background detail which gave the story credibility. The narration was extremely good, and distinguished well between the different men and their different backgrounds. All the loose ends were wrapped up at the end, but a little too neatly for my taste - the ending was slightly unbelievable which was a shame after such a great listen. However despite this it is one of the best audio books I have listened to and the story stayed with me long after I had finished listening to it.
"Bigger than the sum of its parts"
Such a large, ambitious work must be hard to sustain in the writing. Clearly Booker whatever judges might have felt in parts was overcome when assessing in overall performance.
Overall, this is the best novel I have read (sorry, listened to) in a long time. I just felt is fizzled and galloped to its end. The characters have been so lovingly created and nurtured, and the locations so evocatively placed in the background I can imagine it being an epic tv series and if done well (BBC) will ignited calls for sequels. A movie would be in danger of having to mess and shuffle the plot too much.
My judgement may have been swayed by the superb reading, but I recommend listening in decent chunks of 60-90 minutes to allow total immersion
"rather complicated for audio"
I perhaps should have know it would be difficult as audio. next time paperback
"Good yet frustrating."
I did enjoy this book and it was read well, however maybe it works better as text. It took so long to get into as the story is told by each cat artery point of view in turn for the beginning, so if you lose concentration for a second you don't know who's speaking, the story finally unravells in the second half.
Loved it! Bit confusing at first, but worked it out in the end. Definitely worth a look. Enjoy...
"Complicated and yet..."
Great performance and accents. You can easily distinguish between different characters.
I came across this book a while ago but didn't purchase it for some months because of mixed reviews that it’s been given. Sometimes I like long reads/listens though, so finally I decided to "take a punt" and get it. I started listening, somewhat apprehensively at first.
Initially it was very confusing, but slowly the characters, motives, ideas and connections started making sense.
Persevere and the book starts coming together. It is one of the most interesting novels I ever came across. So different and at the same time unexpectedly interesting is the plot that I enjoyed getting back into it time and time again.
Perhaps this is not a right comparison but the story is like a making of spider's webs with the characters being different types of silk, perhaps different nets and the threads and spiral coming all together in the middle.
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