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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 (801 )
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4.1 (687 )
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2 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Julie ATTADALE, Australia 04-02-14
    Julie ATTADALE, Australia 04-02-14 Member Since 2013
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    15
    2
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    Story
    "Needed to see astrological drawings"

    Really enjoyed this book, the characters and the history BUT after finishing I did some research and realized I had missed a lot by not being able to see the drawings and understanding the correlation between the stars and the story.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Diane LANGLEY, WA, United States 03-25-14
    Diane LANGLEY, WA, United States 03-25-14 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
    ratings
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    55
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    "Grew on me!"
    If you could sum up The Luminaries in three words, what would they be?

    Compelling


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

    Anna Wetherell and Emery Staines taking drugs together! The ending was sort of a shock when it happened; I didn't expect it.....not the action of the ending, just the end of the book. I didn't expect it to end when it did, thought I'd made a mistake in listening.


    Have you listened to any of Mark Meadows’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    I don't remember. He was terrific.


    Who was the most memorable character of The Luminaries and why?

    Anna. She was sort of a mystery all along. Some characters I just don't remember and/or what part they played in the story.


    Any additional comments?

    This book grew on me. I couldn't believe it would carry it self for so long, but in the end, it did. I MISS the characters; loved the main ones in particular, and had no idea I would. We traveled in NZ two years ago so knowing the geography (we were in all the places mentioned) was very fun. Also imagining a gold rush in a country other than the U.S. was interesting; I'd never read about one elsewhere. I was surprised whoring/a whore were so casually accepted there too. Also loved that Eleanor Catton, such a YOUNG WOMAN writer, could get into the heads of men like she did; brilliant, and, also that at her age she could write as insightfully as she did. Highly recommended despite the fact I didn't like it until probably the middle. I love audiobooks for that reason, I almost always give them a good long chance.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    anonymous Golden, CO USA 03-23-14
    anonymous Golden, CO USA 03-23-14 Member Since 2007
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    10
    1
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    Story
    "Not worth a credit"

    I read a lot, and when I can't read, I listen to books. This has a wonderful narrator, but the story is so slow and repetitive that by a few hours into it, I didn't care about any of the characters or the mystery the author was trying to develop. Any comparisons to Dickens are misplaced. This book is pure tedium.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Peregrine Los Angeles, CA, United States 03-15-14
    Peregrine Los Angeles, CA, United States 03-15-14 Member Since 2006

    If it weren't for Audible I'd never get any reading done.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    47
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    "A great read, but falls apart at the end"

    The Luminaries is a great read for anyone who enjoys 19th-century British novels. Catton's prose is of a decidedly Victorian bent, beautiful descriptions spilling out as a Wilkie Collins-type plot unfolds. Now, I read the Woman in White recently and ended up angry at its cheap coincidences, but The Luminaries doesn't have any of those. For most of the book it's very funny and a real page turner, even with its formal prose style. There's also a fascinating portrayal of early New Zealand society, which indeed was the author's aim.

    What it does have is a weird structure in which little pieces of the whole plot drip out for 800pp., followed by a rush to the finish that doesn't even answer all the reader's questions. Upon finishing I went online and was both relieved and annoyed to find that the unexplained pieces of the plot are just that. There's also an astrological theme throughout that I confess I couldn't follow (even looking at the charts at the head of each section in the print book, which the audiobook of course omits).

    Mark Meadows may be the very best narrator I've ever listened to, as he switches effortlessly through a variety of British, Scottish and Irish accents.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    CPABookLover Oshkosh, WI USA 03-09-14
    CPABookLover Oshkosh, WI USA 03-09-14 Member Since 2011

    CPABookLover

    ratings
    REVIEWS
    11
    2
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    Performance
    Story
    "It could have been so much more than it was"
    What would have made The Luminaries better?

    Without the "magic". It seemed like an unexplained solution to what could have been a really good story.


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

    No


    What aspect of Mark Meadows’s performance would you have changed?

    I would have had him not read the longitudinal coordinates. It was very off-putting in an audio book. I wanted to get rid of the book in the first 5 minutes.


    What character would you cut from The Luminaries?

    No one


    Any additional comments?

    It was a well woven story that got clunky at the end and left me feeling disappointed that I spent 30 hours listening to it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mrs Sydney, Australia 03-01-14
    Mrs Sydney, Australia 03-01-14
    ratings
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    3
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    Story
    "300 page story in a 1000 page book."
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    Not really. I don't know anyone who has this much spare time! This a nice story with some interesting characters, set in an interesting time in New Zealand. Unfortunately the author wants to dazzle us with clever prose and structure. It comes off as repetitive, pretentious and unnecessarily 'clever'. To me it comes off as a little hollow.


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

    The pursuit of Francis Carver by Chinaman Ah Kwee is an interesting subplot. Unfortunately we get it about 6 times.


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

    Mark Meadows got me over the line. His performance is mind boggling. How he manages to keepa ll those characters going is admirable.


    Did The Luminaries inspire you to do anything?

    Listen to a shorter book next time...it goes for nearly 30 hours!


    Any additional comments?

    It's a nice little story. Pity the author could not hold back her ambition.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    katrina NEWBURGH, NY, United States 03-01-14
    katrina NEWBURGH, NY, United States 03-01-14 Member Since 2010
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    64
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    "Wonerful narration"

    This is a beautiful, complex story. The narrator managed to keep it pacy and distinguished the characters brilliantly. I was engaged through all the twenty something hours of it, which is really quite a feat for a narrator.

    The plot is so intricate, you'll want to concentrate to keep track of it, but it's so clever, I was amazed it was her first novel.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Susan Seattle, WA, United States 02-28-14
    Susan Seattle, WA, United States 02-28-14 Member Since 2012
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    3
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    "Outstanding Reading"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Luminaries to be better than the print version?

    Yes--the variety of voices and accents made the book even more interesting and less difficult to follow.


    Have you listened to any of Mark Meadows’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    No, but will search for him.


    Any additional comments?

    If there is an academy award for audible books, then Mark Meadows should get one for this.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Katherina Quebec, Quebec, Canada 02-26-14
    Katherina Quebec, Quebec, Canada 02-26-14 Member Since 2013
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    "Genuinely superb"
    Would you listen to The Luminaries again? Why?

    I cannot stress enough what a good book this was - or how outstanding the narrator's performance was.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Zoe United States 02-25-14
    Zoe United States 02-25-14 Member Since 2011
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    3
    2
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    Performance
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    "The character and settings stuck in my mind"
    Would you listen to The Luminaries again? Why?

    Maybe. It is a very lengthy book, but the setting and the characters were vivid and interesting and I would find myself thinking about them and wondering about some of what they did. Although there were unresolved bits in the story, overall, the story did create a world that was interesting to visit.


    What about Mark Meadows’s performance did you like?

    He did a great job giving the characters unique and memorable voices but without being grating.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 41-50 of 73 results PREVIOUS14568NEXT
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  • David
    4/27/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "The title is the most interesting bit"
    What would have made The Luminaries better?

    Dump all that stuff at the beginning about astrological influences.


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

    No - but I won't be buying anything else by this author. It may have been a prize winner, but it did nothing for me. It was difficult to get into, and I found my mind wandering frequently because it was slow and boring a lot of the time.


    Would you listen to another book narrated by Mark Meadows?

    Yes - nothing wrong with the narration, although he does not 'characterise' the players his voice is pleasant and well paced with no irritating speech patterns.


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

    Abandoned listening part way through (most unusual) so can't say.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Christine
    Coromandel Valley, Australia
    4/19/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Amazing Narration"

    Mark Meadows deserves an award for this narration. The book basically has 15 main characters and he has differentiated all of them perfectly. I am in awe of the talent!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Catharina
    AmsterdamNetherlands
    4/18/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Brilliant!"
    Would you listen to The Luminaries again? Why?

    Well, it was a bit long to listen to it again, but it would be worth it for all the fantastic insights into human nature. Reminded me of why I love Jane Austen. Also loved the clever way in which all the different storylines were interwoven and came together. Only downside to me were the last few chapters going back to tell us some things the observant listener would have already figured out.


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

    So many surprising little twists.


    Have you listened to any of Mark Meadows’s other performances? How does this one compare?

    No


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No, it was too long for that. Otherwise definitely.


    Any additional comments?

    No

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Mrs
    WASHINGTON, United Kingdom
    4/17/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Transported back in time"
    Where does The Luminaries rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    I really enjoyed this lengthy book. Definitely in my top ten so far


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

    The party held by Lydia


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

    Mark Meadows' pleasant reading style allowed me to be quite imaginative about the characters


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No! Far too long for that. This was to be savoured over many days


    Any additional comments?

    I didn't think I would enjoy a 'historical' novel, but I did. It had obviously been well researched.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • K. Ormiston
    UK
    4/6/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Complicated but worth concentrating for"
    What made the experience of listening to The Luminaries the most enjoyable?

    A friend was reading it at the same time so we could discuss it,


    What did you like best about this story?

    The richness of the characters and setting. It should be sponsored by the New Zealand tourist office.


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

    The Chinaman


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Yes, I frequently listened far longer than I had intended to.


    Any additional comments?

    A bit complicated until you get the hang of all the characters but worth perseverance. I didn't understand the astrological stuff at the beginning of each chapter but really like the phrases: in which ... And a one or two word summation of the theme of the chapter.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • sally
    Nelson, New Zealand
    4/6/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Hokitika take your gum boots"
    Would you try another book written by Eleanor Catton or narrated by Mark Meadows?

    Eleanor yes


    Who might you have cast as narrator instead of Mark Meadows?

    Someone who can pronounce te reo words. I loved his voice but some was very irritating.


    Did The Luminaries inspire you to do anything?

    I visit Hokitia several times per year for work. I went into the museum and suggested that the wonderful old photo's of the wharf, weld St and Revell St be turned into postcards, so i can send them to all those people who don't get to the West Coast but love the book.


    Any additional comments?

    A wonderful 'who dun it' set in an extraordinary time. Eleanor captures much of the complexities of early settlers and attitudes to others. I didn't understand all the astrological aspects although i tried hard throughout.
    a book to be enjoyed with lots of time such as long journeys or dark winter evenings.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Graham
    Colchester, United Kingdom
    3/31/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Well written, but no story"
    Would you try another book written by Eleanor Catton or narrated by Mark Meadows?


    Mark Meadows narration is excellent.


    What will your next listen be?


    Something with a story line


    Which scene did you most enjoy?

    None


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

    It is very well written, almost Dickensian in style, and the charecters are interesting, very detailed, but the story doesn't go anywhere.


    Any additional comments?

    Although the book is interesting and very well written, the plot is almost non existant. We end up following a group of people doing very little of interest in some Victorian New Zealand gold rush town.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Louisa
    Freshwater Bay, United Kingdom
    3/30/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "I thought it would never end! But it is quite good"
    What did you like best about The Luminaries? What did you like least?

    Best was the reading which was masterly. I also liked the setting and descriptions of New Zealand. I was interested in the whole process of gold mining and the different communities involved in the process. But it was much much too long. However, it is quite clever and if you stick with it you begin to see in what way the book is quite experimental and it is only at the very very end that you understand why the book has been conceived as it has been.


    What about Mark Meadows’s performance did you like?

    He manages to convey the strange environment that all the characters live in and he keeps the pace up which is a huge challenge - he brings the characters to life and helps you get through the long passages.


    If this book were a film would you go see it?

    Possibly, because I would love to see the landscape. The story would have to be drastically cut and I'm not sure if it would be understandable as a film.


    Any additional comments?

    If you like long slow books this is an interesting one.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • andrew
    bath, United Kingdom
    3/27/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A great story but over long"
    Would you listen to The Luminaries again? Why?

    No, it's too big a commitment with not enough payback


    What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

    A bit lack luster


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

    The priest was very likable


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

    The story only really got going in parts 2 and 3 which were really enjoyable.


    Any additional comments?

    It takes too long to get going, but once it did it was great. Lots of depth in both story and characters. Really enjoyable, how evert he ending was too drawn out, leaving a taste of disappointment to something that could have been great.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Per
    Oslo, Norway
    3/22/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Talkative!"

    Sorry to say, this book was boring! No beginning, no middle, no end. And endless stream of detailed stories.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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