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The Luminaries Audiobook

The Luminaries

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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

3.7 (1729 )
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  •  
    E Grapevine, TX, United States 10-20-15
    E Grapevine, TX, United States 10-20-15 Member Since 2015
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    "Terrific book, wonderfully woven tales"

    This is my second listening. The reader does an amazing job with the voices and this complex story unfolds like an origami box.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Shaina 03-06-15
    Shaina 03-06-15 Member Since 2016
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    "Amazing!!"

    Both the writing and the narration perfectly evoke the feeling of a mining town flush with gold, mystery and drama. The circuitous route by which the characters and their back stories are introduced and tied together keeps the interest level high. As more and more details are revealed and your first impressions are challenged and turned on end you will find yourself wanting to reach the end just so that you can re-read this tale again and catch any clues that you missed on your first go-round.

    This book has found a permanent home on my bookshelf as I know that I will be re-reading it over and over. I highly recommend it to fans of Historical Fiction, Mystery, and Drama as it has plenty of all three.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kali Walnut Creek, CA 05-19-14
    Kali Walnut Creek, CA 05-19-14 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
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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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ian C Robertson South Australia, Australia 01-09-14
    Ian C Robertson South Australia, Australia 01-09-14 Member Since 2010

    Eclectic mixer of books of my youth and ones I always meant to read, but didn't.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Literally Dickensian"

    This is an outstanding second novel from this young woman. It has all the hallmarks of a Dickensian novel; complex plot, numerous characters, intrigue, a Court case, coincidence, violence and era. The characters are well developed caricatures; Carver is the malevolent villain, Lydia the scheming widower, Anna the innocent girl gone astray and Moody the son stepping out of his father's dark shadow.
    I agree with other reviewers that a List of Characters is essential (so I got myself a copy from the front of the printed text - it's not yet on Wiki), but I disagree that the diagrams in the text are at all helpful. The diagrams only make sense if you can read astrological charts (which I cannot) and I suggest are more confusing than enlightening.
    I also agree that the tale is too long. It could easily have ended after the trial. Sure, there would have been loose ends, but there were some anyway (what happened to Moody's father, for example). The conceit of the structure (very clever, admittedly) would have suffered, but not the novel. I read an extract of an interview with the author where she postulated that the structure-plot tension was part of an experiment to see if the former could be maintained without expense to the latter. On the evidence of this attempt, I would answer the question, "No".
    As for the performance, I thought Mark Meadows did a sterling job. His narrator's voice reminds me of Jack Davenport (from "Coupling"), or perhaps Arthur Dent's voice from the BBC version of "Hitchhiker's Guide", while his Lauderback was Roland Coleman-like (or perhaps more accurately, Don Adams mimicking Coleman). His female characterisations were good, too, but even he could not capture the difficult to credit transition of Anna from innocent to whore and back again.
    Overall, the title is well worth the listen to about the end of Part 8 or 9. After that, I don't think you will miss much in the way of plot, except for the frustration of the summary being longer than the chapter that follows.

    13 of 19 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Vicky Prince Rupert, British Columbia, Canada 12-22-13
    Vicky Prince Rupert, British Columbia, Canada 12-22-13 Member Since 2016

    Tell us about yourself!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "What a great, original book"
    What made the experience of listening to The Luminaries the most enjoyable?

    I went into this book for the historical fiction and came out of it thinking, that of the thousands of books I've read, this was truly written in the most original way.


    Any additional comments?

    The authour, by tying the character sections into the state of the moon, writing shorter sections as the moon waned, kept things moving along. At the end, a flashback explains all.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Aaron 12-01-13
    Aaron 12-01-13 Member Since 2016
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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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    james d. thomas 10-28-13 Member Since 2009
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    "Best of the Year"

    (At least so far). The book itself is epic, haunting and beautiful, filled with fascinating characters. The audio narration is surprisingly good considering the range of dialects, accents and ethnicities portrayed. Happily the narrator never loses focus from the suspenseful, convoluted and complex plot. I have read the novel twice now, and the audio is a worthy addition. Fast, fresh and funny. A memorable wallow in the "old west" of New Zealand.

    6 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jack Castleisland, Ireland 11-13-13
    Jack Castleisland, Ireland 11-13-13 Member Since 2012
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    "It was great until the last chapter"

    While this is definitely a book that falls into the ponderous genre, it still had just enough pace to keep me interested. It created a world that was full of detail and it seemed very real. Yet it is is not perfectly formed. When the last chapter finished I had to look at the paper version to see if something had gone wrong. While some may call the ending different, it has all the hallmarks of a student rushing a paper where they have run out of time. I was left dissatisfied.
    To finish on a positive note, the reader of this book was excellent, getting the many accents spot on.

    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Celia Topanga, CA, United States 11-10-13
    Celia Topanga, CA, United States 11-10-13 Listener Since 2009
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    "needlessly obscure"

    7 hours in I still really didn't know who the characters were, and more importantly just didn't care. The non linear structure didn't bother me as much as the fact that there was no real protagonist. No one was really likable or all that interesting. I thought the story was needlessly complex and unjustifiably, self consciously obscure. If you're going to make something "hard to figure out" there has to be a payoff somewhere, and after 7 hours I still hadn't found one. So I just gave up. There are far better books around , despite the excellent writing.

    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Harriet Kailua Kona, HI, United States 11-13-13
    Harriet Kailua Kona, HI, United States 11-13-13 Member Since 2011
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    "Overblown, disappointing"
    Would you try another book from Eleanor Catton and/or Mark Meadows?

    no


    What was most disappointing about Eleanor Catton’s story?

    Not all that much story, way too many words. I love detail and long, long books by accomplished writers: Steinbeck, Dickens, Hardy, Stephenson - but this seemed mostly just filler. 29 Hours should have more information.


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

    He did what he could; he did make the blustery, arrogant characters very unpleasant


    If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from The Luminaries?

    Not so much deleting a scene as removing the verbal bloat within them


    Any additional comments?

    I am sorry to be so negative, Ms.Catton's editors have failed her. There were many opportunities for beautifully drawn characters and backgrounds in the book.

    7 of 11 people found this review helpful
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  • 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.


    25 of 25 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.

    19 of 19 people found this review helpful
  • Faiergreen
    11/20/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Good narration, but I lost the will to carry on."
    What disappointed you about The Luminaries?

    I have been a audible listener for 8 years and this is only the second book I have decided to not finish. I always buy unabridged books as I like the longer more detailed stories which have time to develop and reflect the authors true intention for the reader in terms of the characters and story line. Having read the reviews I excitably started listening but after a few hours wondered what I had bought. Yes it is descriptive in terms of the characters but often this is overstated and too detailed and detracts the listener from where the story is going. Eventually the feeling of actually getting nowhere in terms of the story line and realising that there probably won't be a breakthrough in terms of the plot has led me to take the decision to stop listening and put this one down to experience.As previously stated, I adore a longer story but really found I had to push myself to keep listening which as I listen for pleasure was not my idea of fun.


    Would you ever listen to anything by Eleanor Catton again?

    Probably not.


    What did you like about the performance? What did you dislike?

    Performance was clear and easy to listen to.


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

    Disappointment and wondering if it was just me who didn't get it?


    9 of 9 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.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • 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.


    22 of 24 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

    19 of 21 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 !

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Sam
    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


    23 of 27 people found this review helpful
  • steven
    12/23/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "It was a dark and stormy novel..."

    Definitely one of the most unusual books I have ever read. Essentially it is a crime story with a lot of historical fiction blended in. I think if one mixed up Thomas Hardy with Arthur Conan-Doyle one would get a similar result.

    Set in a burgeoning mining town on the remote west coast of New Zealand's South Island (barely 20 years after the signing of the treaty which incorporated NZ into the British empire) the story revolves around an intriguing sequence of events and a large cast of interesting people.

    Every vice is included: murder, robbery, fraud, lies, deceit, racial discrimination, battery and infanticide. There's opium, laudanum and a range of other toxic substances that are abused. There are seances, smoke and mirrors and prostitution to add spice to the lives of the people in the town. And there is love - innocent and fresh, and collusive and destructive.

    The central story is complicated and is retold through the eyes of numerous characters. And it is only after it has been retold several times that the reader is able to piece the story together in its entirety. In telling the story Catton paints a comprehensive picture of life in a gold-rush town and of the early pioneers in New Zealand.

    The link to astrology and the stellar references are a little obscure. Catton is a very accomplished writer and her research must have been exhaustive. Her characters are well drawn and her plot, although rather complicated, is credible and engaging.

    On a dark and stormy night a young lawyer Walter Moody steps into the pub of the hotel where he has found lodgings after disembarking from a ship after a long voyage.

    He interrupts a group of people having a private meeting in the bar, and so the mystery begins to unfold.

    Even after 848 pages one is sad to see the narrative come to an end. The narrator is very good, juggling about five different accents throughout the novel.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Sarah
    Melton Mowbray, United Kingdom
    11/22/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Doesn't work as an audiobook"
    What would have made The Luminaries better?

    As I say in the title, I don't believe this book works as an audible book. Though very detailed and well written, there isn't enough narrative drive. I persevered until halfway through the first part and have given up listening.


    What will your next listen be?

    It is The Greenfinch by Donna Tartt - I'm hooked already.


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

    Frustration


    Any additional comments?

    I shall buy the book and read it as I want to know what happens but can't dedicate 32 hours of my life listening to find out!

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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