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
"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)
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.
Yes. The performance made this book interesting and compelling. As did the writing.
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.
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.
Emery Staines. I've never read a character quite like him. You can't help but be charmed and bewitched by him.
I loved listening to his performance of Harald Nilsson in particularly. Such a subtle accent.
One of the best
The separate story lines build the tension but do not come together until the end so it holds your attention until the end.
Great narration although his pronunciation of some of the place names was unusual.
No I needed to come up for air occasionally
A great story told in a way that kept me fully engaged and interested until the end.
Wine, food and travel writer, editor, and aspiring novelist.
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.
This is richly detailed work of fiction with beautifully drawn characters and an elaborate plot.
Yes, I loved the author's use of words and style.
The well-rounded characters and humor, along with the mystery story and unexpected twists.
No, but I will again --he is amazing; his use of accents and tone are awe-inspiring.
Too many to mention.
If you love stories with interesting characters and slow-developing but well reasoned plots read this!
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.
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.
I don't remember. He was terrific.
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.
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.
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.
"The title is the most interesting bit"
Dump all that stuff at the beginning about astrological influences.
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.
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.
Abandoned listening part way through (most unusual) so can't say.
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!
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.
So many surprising little twists.
No, it was too long for that. Otherwise definitely.
"Transported back in time"
I really enjoyed this lengthy book. Definitely in my top ten so far
The party held by Lydia
Mark Meadows' pleasant reading style allowed me to be quite imaginative about the characters
No! Far too long for that. This was to be savoured over many days
I didn't think I would enjoy a 'historical' novel, but I did. It had obviously been well researched.
"Complicated but worth concentrating for"
A friend was reading it at the same time so we could discuss it,
The richness of the characters and setting. It should be sponsored by the New Zealand tourist office.
Yes, I frequently listened far longer than I had intended to.
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.
"Hokitika take your gum boots"
Someone who can pronounce te reo words. I loved his voice but some was very irritating.
I visit Hokitia several times per year for work. I went into the museum and suggested that the wonderful old photo's of the wharf, weld St and Revell St be turned into postcards, so i can send them to all those people who don't get to the West Coast but love the book.
A wonderful 'who dun it' set in an extraordinary time. Eleanor captures much of the complexities of early settlers and attitudes to others. I didn't understand all the astrological aspects although i tried hard throughout.
a book to be enjoyed with lots of time such as long journeys or dark winter evenings.
"Well written, but no story"
Mark Meadows narration is excellent.
Something with a story line
It is very well written, almost Dickensian in style, and the charecters are interesting, very detailed, but the story doesn't go anywhere.
Although the book is interesting and very well written, the plot is almost non existant. We end up following a group of people doing very little of interest in some Victorian New Zealand gold rush town.
"I thought it would never end! But it is quite good"
Best was the reading which was masterly. I also liked the setting and descriptions of New Zealand. I was interested in the whole process of gold mining and the different communities involved in the process. But it was much much too long. However, it is quite clever and if you stick with it you begin to see in what way the book is quite experimental and it is only at the very very end that you understand why the book has been conceived as it has been.
He manages to convey the strange environment that all the characters live in and he keeps the pace up which is a huge challenge - he brings the characters to life and helps you get through the long passages.
Possibly, because I would love to see the landscape. The story would have to be drastically cut and I'm not sure if it would be understandable as a film.
If you like long slow books this is an interesting one.
"A great story but over long"
No, it's too big a commitment with not enough payback
A bit lack luster
The priest was very likable
The story only really got going in parts 2 and 3 which were really enjoyable.
It takes too long to get going, but once it did it was great. Lots of depth in both story and characters. Really enjoyable, how evert he ending was too drawn out, leaving a taste of disappointment to something that could have been great.
Sorry to say, this book was boring! No beginning, no middle, no end. And endless stream of detailed stories.
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