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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 (831 )
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4.1 (712 )
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Dutch Nebraska 04-15-14
    Dutch Nebraska 04-15-14 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Enthralling"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    This is richly detailed work of fiction with beautifully drawn characters and an elaborate plot.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Linda Patten Cerritos, CA USA 04-03-14
    Linda Patten Cerritos, CA USA 04-03-14 Member Since 2013
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    2
    1
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    Story
    "A masterpiece!"
    Would you listen to The Luminaries again? Why?

    Yes, I loved the author's use of words and style.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The well-rounded characters and humor, along with the mystery story and unexpected twists.


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

    No, but I will again --he is amazing; his use of accents and tone are awe-inspiring.


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

    Too many to mention.


    Any additional comments?

    If you love stories with interesting characters and slow-developing but well reasoned plots read this!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Julie ATTADALE, Australia 04-02-14
    Julie ATTADALE, Australia 04-02-14 Member Since 2013
    ratings
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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
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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
    277
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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
    Overall
    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
    REVIEWS
    3
    1
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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
    HELPFUL VOTES
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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
  • Showing: 41-50 of 75 results PREVIOUS14568NEXT
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  • Barbara
    Lewes, East Sussex, United Kingdom
    11/10/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Ideal choice for listening"
    Where does The Luminaries rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    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.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The complexity, the gentle unfolding and the vision of the life of the times.


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

    Clarifies the complexity by differentiating the characters.


    15 of 15 people found this review helpful
  • Joseph McHugh
    Leixlip
    11/3/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Storytelling at Its Best,Stylish & Elegant"
    What did you like most about The Luminaries?

    The dickensian style of the narative.


    What other book might you compare The Luminaries to, and why?

    any of the 19th centuary classics


    What about Mark Meadows’s performance did you like?

    excellent very easy listening


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

    a very good mix of characters and a complicated interplay between them.


    Any additional comments?

    A brilliant acheivement for such a young author. A very good story well told,I would highly recommend this book

    11 of 11 people found this review helpful
  • Pippa Lamb
    London
    11/2/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Beautifully written, but slower than a snail"
    Would you try another book written by Eleanor Catton or narrated by Mark Meadows?

    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.


    What will your next listen be?

    Something a LOT pacier.


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

    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.


    Could you see The Luminaries being made into a movie or a TV series? Who would the stars be?

    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.


    11 of 11 people found this review helpful
  • Cerisaye
    Glasgow, Scotland
    12/1/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "I tried but failed to like this book"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    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.


    Would you listen to another book narrated by Mark Meadows?

    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.


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

    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.


    Any additional comments?

    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.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • WMD1963
    Manchester UK
    11/26/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "not very impressed at all"
    If this book wasn’t for you, who do you think might enjoy it more?

    Not enough substance - the story line is a bit boring to be honest.


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

    The reader was good :)


    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Ms
    United Kingdom
    11/23/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Excellent if you suffer from insomnia."
    What disappointed you about The Luminaries?

    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.


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

    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.


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

    Disappointment and boredom


    11 of 12 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

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Clare
    Woodbridge, United Kingdom
    12/12/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Gripping tale with a strong sense of place"
    Would you listen to The Luminaries again? Why?

    I would listen to it again if only to go over some of the details and see how it all hangs together.


    What did you like best about this story?

    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.


    Which scene did you most enjoy?

    I enjoyed the scene where Walter Moody is reading some letters he's found. That's when events started to fall into place.


    Any additional comments?

    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.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Patrick
    MORPETH, United Kingdom
    11/25/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A captivating listen"

    Well plotted, a great tale, amazing weaving of characters, plot meanders and comes back on itself, intriguing, narrator is SO good !

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • John
    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.


    8 of 9 people found this review helpful
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