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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 (968 )
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1 star
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Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    Georgia Burns Atlanta GA 01-04-14
    Georgia Burns Atlanta GA 01-04-14 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    16
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    "More suited to reading rather than listening"
    Any additional comments?

    Mark Meadows did an admirable job of distinguishing between the many characters in The Luminaries with various accents and tones. Even the women came off well, each pleasingly voiced in their unique way. It is the story itself that kept my head spinning. Without the artifice of the astrological signs, longitudes, latitudes, etc. it is still quite a puzzle to solve. I needed a book in front of me for reference.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    tonydinardo@earthlink.net Upland Ca.lifornia 12-31-13
    tonydinardo@earthlink.net Upland Ca.lifornia 12-31-13 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Boring"
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    A lit major in college


    What was most disappointing about Eleanor Catton’s story?

    the prose was too arcane


    Would you be willing to try another one of Mark Meadows’s performances?

    yes ... but more upbeat


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

    Dissappointment


    Any additional comments?

    none -- sorry no Cigar!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    alison Calgary, Alberta, Canada 12-15-13
    alison Calgary, Alberta, Canada 12-15-13 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
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    46
    3
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    "Maybe shouldn't be an audio book - too long"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    A shorter book with fewer characters and stories. Sorry, I just found that after 6 hours of listening I was lost and quit. This book requires a concentrated listening time and I hope to restart it in the summer when I can give it the attention I am sure it deserves.


    What could Eleanor Catton have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    I will decide on this when I finish the book.


    Did the narration match the pace of the story?

    Yes


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

    Yes, it does have promise (I have only listened to 6 hours but do plan on restarting 2014 summer). I might end up reading it as opposed to listening to it. The story line is interesting.


    Any additional comments?

    I hate to criticize a book that fails based on my listening preferences. I rarely listen to anything over 15 hours. I listen to 2 books and read an ebook at the same time, so loooong books with complex/multiple character story lines just don't seem to work for me as an audio book. When I take up this audio book again, I will appropriately revise my review. I wonder if I will have to try out Audibles return policy.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jamie Gisborne, New Zealand 12-15-13
    Jamie Gisborne, New Zealand 12-15-13 Member Since 2012
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    2
    2
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    Performance
    Story
    "Great characters and well read"
    What made the experience of listening to The Luminaries the most enjoyable?

    The narrator's talent for accents and expressions. And of his the good material he had to work with.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    The Frenchman Gasgoine (sp? - I listened to it, not read it!) had a talent for cutting statements.


    What about Mark Meadows’s performance did you like?

    Great accents (except for his confused Maori accent - he could have just watched any NZ movie to get the idea - instead Te Rau sounded like an unwell Aborigine) and expressive performance. I haven't considered seeking out books read by a particular person but would do for this guy.


    If you could rename The Luminaries, what would you call it?

    Sphere within a Sphere, because the story rounds on itself so often.


    Any additional comments?

    I'm not sure the whole 'Signs of the Zodiac/Phases of the Moon' theme added anything to the book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    linda United States 12-07-13
    linda United States 12-07-13 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    203
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    26
    10
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    FOLLOWING
    26
    1
    Overall
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    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Silvia Oakland, CA, USA 12-02-13
    Silvia Oakland, CA, USA 12-02-13 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
    29
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    48
    15
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    FOLLOWING
    5
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    "Ilumminating"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Absolutely! The author's ability to weave the stories of several complex characters stands out among writers. I felt as if I had been sucked into a swirling whirlpool that drew me deeper and deeper in the the plot.


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

    The final chapter of the book in which all is revealed stands out.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    With a book of this length, selecting a single scene as a favorite is virtually impossible.


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

    Anna became my most memorable characters for her depth.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Aaron United States 12-01-13
    Aaron United States 12-01-13

    enough about me, let's talk about you!

    HELPFUL VOTES
    89
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    141
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    11
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    "Too clever by half"

    Destined to join that long and distinguished line of celebrated, and unread, novels?

    Eleanor Catton is a fine writer, but seemingly steeped in the school of the nineteenth century masters. Her language and skills of prose are evident, but over the heads of the average reader today (I count myself included).

    The 'astrology' theme, and the waning/waxing phases of the moon, in which the plot is structured is clearly beyond my ability - and inclination - to comprehend.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robin MINNEAPOLIS, MN, United States 12-01-13
    Robin MINNEAPOLIS, MN, United States 12-01-13 Member Since 2005
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    287
    2
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "On and on going nowhere"
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    Maybe someone from Australia


    What could Eleanor Catton have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    Cut to the chase...... it droned on forever.


    How did the narrator detract from the book?

    Hard to understand at first but got accustomed


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

    Definitely disappointment. I heard a tv interview and it sounded interesting. I should have paid more attention when she said that it was 3 times as long as contracted and 2 years over due.


    Any additional comments?

    I can usually finish a book even if it turns out not to be a favorite but after about 3 hours I could not see that it would ever end.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    michael Dayton, OH, United States 11-29-13
    michael Dayton, OH, United States 11-29-13 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
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    13
    10
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    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
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    Performance
    Story
    "Fun look at the historical New Zealand"
    What did you like best about The Luminaries? What did you like least?

    I liked the book. I got it on a whim and had fun listening to it. (Weirdly, it seemed to want to end in a hurry with a "happily ever after" cliche.


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

    I liked Mark's accents. I have no idea if they are accurate, but they are fun.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nancy H Clark Siler City, NC, US 11-23-13
    Nancy H Clark Siler City, NC, US 11-23-13 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
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    4
    4
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    0
    0
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    "Didn't pull me in"

    A remarkable accomplishment -- no question: the landscape, the history, the twists of the various mysteries. But there was no character that pulled me in, no one I was rooting for, empathizing with, even caring about. The performance, however, was masterful and kept me listening to the end.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 61-70 of 79 results PREVIOUS1678NEXT
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  • stew
    Radstock, United Kingdom
    3/20/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Well Read But..."

    Terrible slow story I'm afraid. I gave up half way through. A massive cast all of whom seem to be relating a story that's already happened at a monotonous pace and about whom I failed to care. I got stared at for screaming "Get on with it" as I walked around listening to this tripe.
    Avoid.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Sophie
    Brisbane, Australia
    3/19/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Probably the best audio book I've listened to."
    If you could sum up The Luminaries in three words, what would they be?

    Mesmerising. Fascinating. Brilliant.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The history. Beautifully researched and excellently written to make everything utterly real, it made me want to go over and explore New Zealand and all the places mentioned in the story.


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

    No, but he's brilliant! And it's performance that makes this book so special for me. His genius with juggling so many and often complex voices allowed the story to shine though. I have no doubt I personally would have got a bit bogged down if I was actually reading this one myself.


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

    The sheer scale of this novel moved me, it is enormous and epic and takes you away on the most amazing journey back in time whilst making it seem very real. I honestly felt I was there with the characters.


    Any additional comments?

    Listen to it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • laurel
    GODALMING, United Kingdom
    3/13/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "You can almost forget it's literary fiction"
    What did you like most about The Luminaries?

    I normally steer clear of Booker winners and literary fiction because I often find them too pompous and self-important. However, this was a very good and complex story, told and woven among approximately 20 different characters. It was part murder mystery, part court-room drama, and a perfect period piece. I admit that listening to it rather than reading it, I may have missed quite a lot of the astrological significance, but that didn't matter too much overall.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    No particular favourite.


    Which scene did you most enjoy?

    The courtroom scene.


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

    No - it's 29 hours!


    Any additional comments?

    I found this book very difficult to get into at first, but it was worth persevering. The narrator was good and differentiated the characters well, but initially I found the number of characters a bit confusing. It took me a good 2-4 hours to get into it - almost to the point where the initial scene with the 13 men in a room got up to real time. But I'm glad I stuck with it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Andrew
    Bedfordview, South Africa
    3/11/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Fantastical Story Weaving"

    A magical trip into the New Zealand gold rush, through one of the most carefully thought out books that I've yet read. The story is woven together with such precision that it leaves you guessing, piecing elements and characters together, and revelling in the rich language.

    The narrator played a large part in making the book - with so many characters and dialogues, his accents and characterisation of the each of the players brought the book to life.

    At times the tempo faltered slightly, and was a little drawn out, but in restrospect these sections of the book developed the persona of each of the characters more richly.

    Go and get it!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • L
    Auckland, New Zealand
    3/1/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "OMG, I'll listen again when I've recovered"

    Massively complex tale, after one listening, I'm not sure I caught it all! And one day when I've recovered from this mammoth story, I'll listen again to pick up the bits that slipped by unnoticed. The narrator did a sterling job with voicing an intimidating number of characters, except Te Rau Te Whare, I don't know what accent we were going for here??
    Anyway, don't buy this book if you were planning getting anything done for the next week, once you start, you won't want to stop until you've worked out what the hells going on.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Ecovisitor
    UK
    2/27/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Gripping story"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I would recommend this gripping story. Its involved, complicated but clear with beautifully constructed characters brilliantly read.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The length and consistent tension- it was relentless, didn't give you a break in wanting to know what happened next...


    What about Mark Meadows’s performance did you like?

    His way of giving each character a distinctive voice- clear but not annoyingly obvious.


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

    A tale of pure gold in a new world of hardship, intrigue and loyalty.


    Any additional comments?

    It was brilliant and I am bereft now its finished!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Stella
    London, United Kingdom
    2/21/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "extraodinary reading of a maze-like novel"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Luminaries to be better than the print version?

    this is an amazing reading by Mark Meadows - so many distinct and different voices captured and held clearly in the listener's mind. the only advantage in reading the book would be to be able to track back the extraordinary plot to its origins - as it is (or seems to be) a novel which swoops round to the beginning at the end....


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

    all the incidents involving the Maori character.


    What about Mark Meadows’s performance did you like?

    his astonishing ability with different characters and their accents and their languages!


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

    some of the moments with Anna towards the end


    Any additional comments?

    an amazing book to listen to.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Spirit
    Cornwall
    2/11/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "lingering"
    If you could sum up The Luminaries in three words, what would they be?

    Shaggy dog story


    What did you like best about this story?

    Convoluted plot that interlinked all the characters. I also like the setting. Loved the modern take on a Victorian novel - very Wilkie Collins


    What about Mark Meadows’s performance did you like?

    perfect - I don't think I could have managed this book without the voices all being appropriate and different for each of the 12 main characters


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

    concentrate


    Any additional comments?

    don't let the 28 hours put you off - I wondered if I could survive but there are summaries dotted throughout!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Anna
    UK
    2/10/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A brilliantly written book with a very clever plot"
    Would you listen to The Luminaries again? Why?

    I thoroughly enjoyed listening to it again, but would not wish to re-read.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Emery Staines was a charismatic character.


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

    No, but I would like to….very talented.


    Any additional comments?

    Took a little while to get into, and a slightly unsatisfactory ending, leaving questions unanswered but otherwise a masterpiece! A worthy award winner.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • G
    Northampton, United Kingdom
    2/10/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Beautifly crafted and well though out"
    Would you listen to The Luminaries again? Why?

    No, it's a good book but just not as capativating as I would have hoped


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

    Mark Meadows is a brilliant narrator and delivers the book wonderfully


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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