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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
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  •  
    elizabeth a fowler 05-24-14
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    4
    1
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    Story
    "Why?"
    What do you think your next listen will be?

    Right now, I've started "The Burgess Boys" and am enjoying it.


    Any additional comments?

    I'm not sure why this book was so well received. I have tried several times to "stay with it" but am finally giving up. The story line is not engaging and I don't care for the reader.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kali Walnut Creek, CA 05-19-14
    Kali Walnut Creek, CA 05-19-14 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
    94
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    "A dizzying, heady masterpiece."

    Listening to The Luminaries is like being dropped in the midst of New Zealand’s Otago Gold Rush, blindfolded and totally without reference, and then being spun round in circles by a stranger and let loose to feel around the landscapes and stand near their inhabitants, prospectors and bankers and Chinese diggers and tattooed Māori streaming around you, the women left to pleasure and care for these teeming throngs of men nearly knocking you over as they rush this way and that, and just as you feel overwhelming lost amidst these endless characters, totally without equilibrium in this many-plotted story centered in a town where everyone wants to make it rich, Eleanor Catton comes and takes you by the shoulder and steadies you for just a moment, and you breathe in the smells of dirty men and sea water as ships wreck upon the beach and scavengers look upon the ships and you sigh and know that despite there being too much information here, maybe just too much life here, for one book to ever express, you must keep reading.

    Anyone coming off of a Goldfinch buzz and wondering what their next ambitious, too-long book will be should look no further than The Luminaries. Both books are written with the crisp observations that make them so much more than plot recounted. These are stories of life, magnified. Stories of how life could be if we all drunk in details of each other’s quirks and charms, every insecurity and affect, every ugly part and every beautiful one, and then maximized them into sentence-formed still lives spilling over into paragraphs so illustrative of this human condition we’re stuck in they act like paintings on pages changing ordinary days into phenomenas, ordinary interactions into humorous, tragic, wonderful things worth documenting. This is how these books get to be close to 1,000 pages long–life magnified is a very big thing, indeed.

    The Luminaries, as I’ve mentioned, is the story of New Zealand’s Otago Gold Rush, and the story of a plethora of characters drawn together by an unfortunate set of circumstances. Men in all sorts of businesses centered around profiting off of gold or the men who find it feel uneasily bamboozled, they all sense a caper of some sort, and yet trying to pin down who has down wrong when is like trying to sift the gold dust apart from the dirt. The plot is complicated, and meant to be, as that’s the fun and beauty of the thing. Also, this is a book that uses the word “whore” quite a bit. Prepare yourself for that.

    Catton includes all sorts of bells and whistles, but she really didn’t need to, as her writing stands on its own. There are astrological signs and charts of each character’s place on the zodiac, and there are chapter lengths that get progressively shorter by half until it seems almost hard to keep up with all the pieces that are being put together. Unfortunately much of this is lost in the audiobook, as it could have included a .pdf with the illustrations from the book for reference. What the audiobook version gained was narrator Mark Meadows deftly juggling the varied accents required amidst the cultural mish-mash of gold rush New Zealand. I appreciate getting lost in layers of meaning as much as the next book nerd, however, and I’ll be picking up a hard copy of the book to read again for further understanding of the whole astrological subtext.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amber Brookman San Francisco, CA United States 05-16-14
    Amber Brookman San Francisco, CA United States 05-16-14 Member Since 2012

    Amber

    ratings
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    10
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    "The benefits of listening."
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    Yes. The performance made this book interesting and compelling. As did the writing.


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

    I think the story did not need the Astrology. I missed the point of the Astrology, maybe something lost in listening rather than reading. However we picked this book for a book club and I was the only one who finished and liked it, I believe it was directly because I listened to it instead of reading. It would be very tedious to read.


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

    no


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

    Yes


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lucy Sydney, Australia 05-10-14
    Lucy Sydney, Australia 05-10-14 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    4
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    "Phenomenal"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    This is one of the best books I've ever read, and, as a bibliophile, I do not say this lightly. Murder, revenge, love, deceit, betrayal, dastardly characters, innocent and charming characters; an epic, cinematic novel.

    I have no doubt that Eleanor Catton's novels will become future classics, staples on every book lover's bookshelf. I have already recommended this to numerous friends, who are unanimously in awe of Catton's genius.

    Listening to The Luminaries being read by Mark Meadows was an exquisite joy. Meadows as a narrator is unmatched, in my opinion. He switches seamlessly between a vast range of accents, the most impressive of which are probably Maori, Chinese, Norwegian, and German, although the spectrum of his English accents is amazing.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Emery Staines. I've never read a character quite like him. You can't help but be charmed and bewitched by him.


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

    I loved listening to his performance of Harald Nilsson in particularly. Such a subtle accent.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Albertus de Geest 04-17-14 Member Since 2006
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    163
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    "Great story well told"
    Where does The Luminaries rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    One of the best


    What did you like best about this story?

    The separate story lines build the tension but do not come together until the end so it holds your attention until the end.


    What about Mark Meadows’s performance did you like?

    Great narration although his pronunciation of some of the place names was unusual.


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

    No I needed to come up for air occasionally


    Any additional comments?

    A great story told in a way that kept me fully engaged and interested until the end.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Scott Moss Beach, CA, United States 04-16-14
    Scott Moss Beach, CA, United States 04-16-14 Member Since 2009

    Wine, food and travel writer, editor, and aspiring novelist.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Brilliant Narration but Book Needs an Editor"

    Mark Meadows is amazing, voicing more than a dozen characters so distinctly that it was like listening to an ensemble cast. His accents run the gamut from Scottish, to Irish, the various regional and class distinctions of England, Maori, Australian, Chinese, men and women, young and old. I only kept listening because of the narrator.

    The book is Dickensian in scope and 19th Century in narrative style, which befits the subject, but it needed a good editor. The writing is very good, but the story jumps around in time to no purpose, and is numbingly repetitive. The last quarter of the book does little more than show in action what we already know from hearsay and narration, and leaves a few loose ends that would have given a more satisfying resolution.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dutch Nebraska 04-15-14
    Dutch Nebraska 04-15-14 Member Since 2015
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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 2014
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    2
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    "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
  •  
    Amazon Customer 04-02-14
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    188
    4
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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 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
    6
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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
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  • DAvid
    5/22/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Great start, terrific narration, but peters out"
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    The first 3/4 of the book are beautifully written, and narrated, wonderful to listen to, but then the entire story is resolved, and it turns out there is no real mystery, and no ghost story at all. The remaining chapters of the book are so thin that it feels as if Eleanor Catton had a target length for her book, realized she had to come to a swift completion and entirely changed her writing style to come to that closure.


    If you’ve listened to books by Eleanor Catton before, how does this one compare?

    Previously reading (not listening to) The Rehearsal I was looking forward to another book which kept me guessing, and reached a high point with its final resolution. Unfortunately with The Luminaries the opposite was the case - the high point is the first part of the book, albeit that this is a value for money 20 hours or so of the audio version, and is thoroughly enjoyable, it does mean the the book ultimately disappointed me.


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

    Mark Meadows' narration is wonderful. His accents for the different characters brings them to life, and his pronunciation of the Maori and Chinese sounded very convincing to my untrained ear.


    Any additional comments?

    I am sure I did not fully understand the Astrological theme (maybe this is more effective read rather than heard), but it added nothing to the novel for me.
    Overall: Enjoy the writing and narration for the first 20 hours or so, but do not expect too much from the remainder of the novel.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • P. S. Rowley
    UK
    5/17/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Time Lord's delight"
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    Although this book is to be recommended, it fails me in the end with the loose ends and the most especially the compulsive use of jumping back in time like a recording made in nonsequential edits. It rapidly becomes confusing as you futilely try to keep a group on who why and when. Once the trial is over it again leaps backwards to finally tie things up, but creates more of an anticlimax in doing so. Better to reorganise the time segments in a more sequential manner to follow the characters and related events.


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

    I wanted it to be the unexplained facts, and maybe a closure, especially relating to Anna, but it was not to be. So, I suppose the second part of the download was better, with a desire to listen on and get into the story more (e.g. relationship between Carver and Wells), but it was not fulfilled, either as a "once upon a time..." or as a tragedy.


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

    Moody


    Do you think The Luminaries needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

    Yes, it would be possible. There are enough loose ends with the death of A Suk, Shepherd' actions and the continuation of Staines' activities in the gold field. Of course, the characters of Lydia Wells, and Carver act as good bad guy characters to act as foils. Maybe tell it from Moody's viewpoint re Anna and Staines.


    Any additional comments?

    Reorganise the structure of the original.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • P
    GUERNSEY, United Kingdom
    5/11/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A really good story"

    I am so glad I listened to this book. I was a little daunted by the 'list' of characters, but I managed to keep track! Good plot, well written and easy on the ear narration. I was tempted to listen to it again when I got to the end.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Helen
    coventry, United Kingdom
    5/2/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Bloody brilliant!"
    If you could sum up The Luminaries in three words, what would they be?

    fresh, veiled, otherworldly


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Walter Moody - emotional and logical at the same time


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

    Unbelievably good narration. For the first time I am actually going to look for books with the narrator as opposed to looking by author


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

    Really wanted to get to the truth. Rooted for the 'heroes'


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Amanda
    4/30/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Drove me mad!"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    It wasn't a 4 or a 5 listen for me!


    What will your next listen be?

    The husbands secret by Liane Moriarty.


    Did Mark Meadows do a good job differentiating each of the characters? How?

    yes.


    Any additional comments?

    It was far too long winded. Drove me half mad I'm afraid! I day dreamed through bits!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • SuzyDiamond
    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

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