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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 (1344 )
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4.1 (1158 )
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1 star
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Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    Ina 10-17-14
    Ina 10-17-14

    Orlando

    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
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    48
    10
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    Story
    "Couldn't get into the story"

    I wouldn't say, it's a stupid story but in my opinion it's not apt for an audiobook. Usually after at most 1-2 hours of listening to a story, I get drawn into it and can't wait to get back to it. In this case I listened on and on for hours on end until I finally decided to resign - which I have only done once before. I just couldn't cope any longer! So boring! Such a rigmarole! I really do enjoy lenghty descriptions and dialogues when they are well written, but this was just unbearable. Sorry! It is just as well that I didn't waste a credit for this book but bought it as a bargain for $ 4,95. Otherwise I would have been really disappointed!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Peter Middleton, WI, United States 09-01-14
    Peter Middleton, WI, United States 09-01-14 Member Since 2008

    Tell us about yourself!I am an avid reader but enjoy listening while waking to work, ironing, doing dishes, etc. Listening to novels is an entirely different experience than reading; a well narrated story is a cross between drama and written fiction. Listening to books on Audible has been a wonderful experience.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    24
    ratings
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    43
    31
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    0
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    "Brilliant complex mystery/love story"
    What did you love best about The Luminaries?

    The writing, the sense of place


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Gascoigne--cheerful, independent, insightful, interesting past


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

    Walter Moody--the trial scenes were fabulous


    Any additional comments?

    This book is a complex and brilliantly conceived story with many layers about a remote place and time. The narration is pitch-perfect as Meadows rotates seamlessly between indigenous Maori accents, Irish, Scotch, and English accents. The story is told in a non linear fashion with multiple loops back to the original themes making it easier to grasp. The writing is spectacular. This is a unique piece with throwbacks to a Jane Austen style but with a rare and exquisite layering of plot lines. It takes some time to get through it but it's worth it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Fata Morgana 08-17-14 Member Since 2012
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    176
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Simply extraordinary"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Not only WOULD iI recommend this book, I HAVE! … to any friend whom I know to enjoy mysteries, fine literature, narrative tone, and -- when possible -- an ear for just simply delectable fun between the lines.


    What did you like best about this story?

    Each of its many characters were impressively well drawn. The writing is masterful and there is always a sense that the author is having much fun in the writing, the teasing of the reader, the breathlessness of the mystery. It was the most enjoyable page turner I've read in decades. Typically I listen to audiobooks while I exercise. Well, thanks to this book, the number of miles I walked this last month increased substantially! If you love great storytelling, sophisticated literature, intriguing history, fabulous pitch perfect narration, and a true romp through a 19th century mystery, you'll love this audiobook.
    If there is a flaw, it's that ending of the book feels a bit rushed … That's the only reason I did not give it five stars overall.


    What about Mark Meadows’s performance did you like?

    Mark Meadows' performance contributed more to the atmosphere and depth of the narrative than any of the many excellent narrators in other audio books to which I've listened. His performance is simply dazzling--just like the author's. His British accent; the perfect pitch, inflection, and pacing for this 19th century setting; the broad command of the different characters' voices--all made the listening experience so rich. I can't imagine that simply reading the words could have matched the depth and breath of this outstanding audio experience.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    The most dazzling, thrilling, entertaining historical mystery of your life!


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    PAT Loveland, CO United States 07-26-14
    PAT Loveland, CO United States 07-26-14 Member Since 2012

    wishccr

    ratings
    REVIEWS
    20
    7
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Luminous and Captivating"

    First, high praise to Mark Meadows for his excellent narration. He is stellar and immensely increased my enjoyment of this book.

    Catton does a tremendous job of taking the reader/listener to the mid-1800's with the mannerisms and speech patterns of her characters. Because of this, it took me a bit to get my bearings, but thereafter I was enthralled.

    I really loved this book until the closing scenes, which seemed anti-climatic. I am sad to say this, because it is a masterful book and I wanted to put it on my list of forever favorites right up until that last chapter. That is not to say it totally ruined the book for me, but it the ending was very mundane--just a wispy re-cap of what the reader (mostly) already knew.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Braden Batch 07-24-14
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    4
    4
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Catton is now a name I look for at the book store!"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Luminaries to be better than the print version?

    They are both excellent.


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

    I would rather not spoil any part of the book, people shouldn't answer this question.


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

    For different reasons I liked different characters, Gascoigne's accent had a great charm to it. That said, I really had trouble with Lidia Well's voice, but I cant tell if its the actor or the character herself that irked me.


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

    There is a couple of very sad moments that put me in a somber mood. There is real tragedy that befalls certain characters, and I reacted to that.


    Any additional comments?

    I had no real expectation of this book. The setting in 1800s New Zealand at first seemed so irrelevant, but after getting to know some characters I really started to appreciate the story telling. This book is, if nothing else, superb storytelling, and could be set anywhere. I will be a lifelong fan of Catton's, and I look forward to reading her other works.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ruthanne Davis Abilene, Texas USA 07-22-14
    Ruthanne Davis Abilene, Texas USA 07-22-14 Member Since 2013

    The Bookworm

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    2
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    Story
    "Disappointing"
    What did you like best about The Luminaries? What did you like least?

    I so looked forward to reading/listening to this book...and I was completely disappointed in every aspect, except the narration.


    Any additional comments?

    Try as I might, I could not get into this book. It was certainly not the fault of the narrator. Mark Meadows did a fine job...it was the book itself. It was tedious from the beginning. The characters were wooden and underdeveloped. I am amazed that this won the Man Booker Prize last year. There were many books much more deserving.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jane F. Clifton AUSTRALIA 07-20-14
    Jane F. Clifton AUSTRALIA 07-20-14 Member Since 2013
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    12
    5
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Brilliant read, top story"
    Where does The Luminaries rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    One of the best audiobooks I've listened to.


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

    Mark Meadows managed the difficult task of so many characters and varied accents with consumate skill.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    christy Wisconsin 07-04-14
    christy Wisconsin 07-04-14 Member Since 2013

    Books are an integral part of my mental health, intellectual stimulation and social networking!

    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
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    "I tried and tried....."

    I really wanted to enjoy this book as it sounded so interesting from the descriptions as well as other reviews. I first tried to read the actual hard copy of this book, that was not working. I found myself unmotivated to read the amount of text to get to the story! Then I tried the audio approach and found myself drifting often. I made it through about 30% of the book before I decided to take a break. Maybe I will finish it someday. The narration was fine; it was just the amount of words I had to process to understand the meaning!

    The plot was moderately intriguing and I do want to know about the remainder of the story, but the style of writing was a bit cyclical for me. I do appreciate novels that the writing is part of the process and thought that this was going be the same with this book. Maybe if there was a more intriguing onset to the story, it would have kept my interest.

    Also, this won the Man Booker award......not sure what that really means anymore. I might not be so interested in reading the next winner of that award next time.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andrew 06-24-14
    Andrew 06-24-14 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
    ratings
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    28
    6
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    0
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    "Good but not good enough..."

    ...to justify overly complex structure of over-lapping plot lines. The ending wasn't so much an anticipated insight or understanding, but a relief I kinda sorta got what had happened.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    KKH Lancaster, PA USA 05-30-14
    KKH Lancaster, PA USA 05-30-14 Member Since 2008

    alwayslookingforgoodbooks

    HELPFUL VOTES
    6
    ratings
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    60
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    0
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    "One of the best performances by a narrator"

    The story is good and worth the 23+ hours but I had to write this review to praise the narrator for such a wonderful job. There are about 16 different characters with all types of accents; Scottish, Irish, Australian, French, etc. He mastered them all and I could always tell who was talking based on the voice. I think this is quite a feat with this particular book. I seldom notice the narrator unless they are very bad, but I wish I could give this one 6 stars.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
Sort by:
  • Thomas
    London, United Kingdom
    7/7/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Great story"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Yes, it's a great story, well told, it does have the odd slow bit but overall really enjoyable. It's a mix of historical novel, western (though set in NZ) and thriller


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

    not sure.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • david
    Edinburgh, United Kingdom
    7/7/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Easy to imagine yourself in this place and time"
    Where does The Luminaries rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    I was fascinated by the different characters and storyline, much better than a lot of books I have listened to


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

    "Out of this Nettle", similar atmosphere of times gone by, distance from home, isolation and hardship


    What about Mark Meadows’s performance did you like?

    Mark did a lot to keep me there, in my mind, he added greatly to the atmosphere which is an important part of this book


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

    Some characters I felt empathy for, some I did not like and wished them to come to harm, overall my emotions were on the side of those many individuals that were not trying to destroy others


    Any additional comments?

    Had my doubts in the first 20 minutes but very glad I stuck with it, enjoyable and different !!!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Mark Head
    Tiverton, Devon, UK
    7/7/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Well crafted, but ultimately a bit dissapointing"

    The positives:
    This is obviously written with care and attention to detail and character development. You get a very thorough understanding of all the characters and even empathise with the situation and confusion that they find themselves in. The story slowly unravels and you continually learn something new that sheds light on each character's situation, keeping you hooked enough to learn the secret of the mystery.

    The negatives:
    Each character plot line begin with mystery and intrigue, but ultimately never turn out to be overly interesting. Some of the major characters from the start of the story even disappear without any kind of conclusion, I either forgot who they were or was left wondering what the point of them were.

    All in all, this is a very long novel and although I enjoyed the intrigue by the end I was not left feeling fulfilled that I had enjoyed a great story.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • M. Donovan
    Kent England
    6/28/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Well worth sticking with this complex story"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Luminaries to be better than the print version?

    Yes as I would not have stuck with print version


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

    none in particular


    Which scene did you most enjoy?

    none in particular


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

    Don't know


    Any additional comments?

    Very well read, complex story that time to get into, but worth it in the end.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Hannah
    6/25/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Disappointing plot"
    What would have made The Luminaries better?

    An ambling story which has an interesting first chapter. However, 5 chapters in I am now bored by dull characters and not much substance to engross me- very disappointed in this novel indeed!


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • lucinda
    FAREHAM, United Kingdom
    6/17/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Couldn't get into it!"
    What disappointed you about The Luminaries?

    Really tried but couldn't get into the story at all, too many changes in characters, hard to focus on to follow the story line.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Stan d'Up
    6/15/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A great sprawling yarn...."
    Where does The Luminaries rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    This is up there with my all time audio favourites.
    Start with Sherlock Holmes narrated by the great Basil Rathbone, and add the fabulous cassettes from "Mr Punch" including "To have and have not" with Bogart & Bacall, and 'It's a Wonderful Life" with Jimmy Stewart.

    Great yarn, well told.


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

    Discovering that only half of the book had downloaded from audible!

    I really thought that it was over....


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

    Excellent delivery by the narrator and Mark Meadows does this complex tale a great service. Every character was recognisable by 'voice', sometimes quicker than where they fitted into the plot! Female charachters were particularly good, plus were there 3 or 4 Scottish accents - methinks?

    Bravo


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

    Oh for that luxury! No thanks, not for this tale.


    Any additional comments?

    Too much chapter info at the end, which was a lovely précis, and probably worked better in the book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Cheltreader
    6/15/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Excellent narration"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Luminaries to be better than the print version?

    The narrator was able to really distinguish between all of the characters and their accents; this made it so much easier to keep up with the twists and turns in the plot. Excellent narrative and engaging characters.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Jen
    Wetherby, United Kingdom
    6/2/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Tedious in the extreme"
    What disappointed you about The Luminaries?

    Few redeeming features, way overlong, distant characterisation and feeble plot


    Would you ever listen to anything by Eleanor Catton again?

    No


    What didn’t you like about Mark Meadows’s performance?

    He did not seem any more interested than I was, he has my sympathy


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

    Some historic and geographical interest


    Any additional comments?

    Cannot begin to understand how it won a prize

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Allan Turnbull
    Chippenham, England
    6/2/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Beautifully written, perfectly delivered"
    What did you like best about this story?

    The intrigue and the crossing lines of a complex narrative added together make this a must read/listen for any fan of historical drama.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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