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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

Critic Reviews

"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 Ratings

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  • 3.7 out of 5.0
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  • Harriet
  • Kailua Kona, HI, United States
  • 11-13-13

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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and the wheel goes around and round

This story is told and retold slightly different while strongly the same. In spite of the multiple characters, Ms Catton's descriptions create clear distinctions avoiding confusion over who is who. The book is very different thanks to the distinctive writing style. Be warned: if you decide to listen to this book - it is very long and repetitive but there is no way it could be any different. I thought I was at the end only to realize that was not the case. I understand the story, the plot, the character and the achievement of the complex writing but I do not understand the end. So the wheel goes around again?

7 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • Madelaine
  • Provo, UT, United States
  • 10-27-13

Took me a while to get into it - then I loved it

It was difficult to keep all the characters and intrigue straight in my head - and I'm still not entirely sure I know exactly what happened - but I really enjoyed this listen. The whole thing reminded me very much of Dickens in that there was a large cast of very interesting, well-drawn characters and the novel was completely plot-driven. The narration by Mark Meadows is absolutely fantastic. I really don't know if I would have been able to power through the rather confusing beginning if it weren't for him (I listen while I work - so this book might not be quite as mystifying for the completely undistracted listener). And I'm really glad I did power through - I think this was my favorite audible book of the year.

10 of 16 people found this review helpful

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  • Mark
  • Bettendorf, IA, United States
  • 11-23-15

Excellent novel made more exceptional be narrator

A wonderful, captivating story that could've gone on even longer. Simply fantastic. Excellent novel made more exceptional be narrator.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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One of the best performances by a narrator

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

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Katie
  • United States
  • 02-10-14

Really hard to get into

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

This story is just really really long. The narrator does a good job but the story just isn't particularly interesting after the first few hours. It would have been much better if the length was trimmed. The story was too convoluted.
Also, there were too many characters - it was really hard to 1) keep track of them 2) care what they were doing

Would you ever listen to anything by Eleanor Catton again?

Maybe - the plot premise was interesting, it was just issue with length & number of characters

Would you listen to another book narrated by Mark Meadows?

Yes - he did his best to keep the tone interesting

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Kimberly
  • Grants Pass, OR, United States
  • 01-09-14

Boring!!

What would have made The Luminaries better?

Too long winded and it took too long to go anywhere

Has The Luminaries turned you off from other books in this genre?

no

How did the narrator detract from the book?

The accent was a bit thick and I was easily distracted.

What character would you cut from The Luminaries?

I did not like any character

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Great book made even better by epic performance

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

I found the audio book narrator, Mark Meadows, to be marvelous! His ability with accents and in particular his delicious interpretation of Lydia was inspired, and his excellent character distinctions did a great deal to help my own understanding of, and ability to differentiate between the many characters. Bravo, sir!

Any additional comments?

This is an exceptionally well-written book, but fair warning, it has a complicated, non-linear plot requiring (on my part) taking notes on the characters, places, times and relationships both revealed and secret between each of these elements.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Well read, twisty plot, great history, but l-o-n-g

I enjoyed the Luminaries: a fascinating account of gold fields of New Zealand. The characters are all colorful, very Dickens-like, and the book is very well read. The biggest challenge is that there are many characters and it is very long. Even listening regularly, it is easy to get a bit confused, particularly as the book jumps around date-wise a bit. That being said, it is a really good book and deserved of its awards and accolades.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Mezmerizing!

What made the experience of listening to The Luminaries the most enjoyable?

The reader was able to bring all of the characters to life. The prose is so sumptuous and detailed -- you get lost in the moment, drinking in the settings and descriptions.

What did you like best about this story?

I loved the way that the story folded into itself -- truth revealed at the crux between the past and the future. The book celebrates language. I enjoyed the names of all the characters and places -- had a Dickensian onomatopoeia.

What about Mark Meadows’s performance did you like?

He was able to bring the voices to life in all the languages and accents.

If you could take any character from The Luminaries out to dinner, who would it be and why?

It would have to be Emery Staines -- the most pleasant, optimistic and positive of the cast.

Any additional comments?

I was sorry that the story ended. I wanted to hear more about the resolution -- what happened to the Widow Carver. Did the Maori walk free? Was there love at long last for Anna and Emery? But like a bountiful meal, I left the table sated with much to digest. It was a marvellous listen.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • S.E.
  • 11-01-13

Tedious. Can't think why this is a prize winner!

What did you like best about The Luminaries? What did you like least?

Excellent narrator.....shame about the book! Goodness...what a disappointment! I rarely give up on books but this one was exceptionally tedious. I found I really didn't care what happened and to whom and therefore did not engage with the characters or the plot! I wonder what was going on in the minds of the judges....I don't always like/enjoy their choices but have always managed to finish the books....this one was exceptionally boring and I gave up!

What was most disappointing about Eleanor Catton’s story?

THE STORY! THE CHARACTERS! THE MISERABLE SETTING!

Would you listen to another book narrated by Mark Meadows?

Definitely! A very fine narrator!

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

Please don't write another like this!

Any additional comments?

Enough said!

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Charl
  • 09-26-17

Confused

I listened to this a while ago and remember at the time thinking "what the heck?". Maybe it was lost on me but I found the storyline and narration so dull that I would switch off completely and have to keep going back. I remember 1 hour after I finished I said to my husband "thank goodness I've finished this book" to which he asked "was it good, what was it about?" I couldn't even remember the storyline or any of the characters. I have listened to some pretty heavy books but this was painstakingly boring.

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  • Rita Kelly
  • 09-07-17

Not my favourite subject

To me this story was rather like a soap opera set in the New Zealabd
goldfields during the 19th century. There were some good storylines but there were too many, crammed into a vast volume.It was possibly because I could not warm to any of the many characters that I found the book just too long and irksome.

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  • Karen
  • 07-08-17

Wonderful book

This is a beautifully complex, layered tale. I tried to start it a couple of times but couldn't get into it. Then I decided to give it a good go, and I'm so glad I did. Once involved in the story, the quality of the story telling carries you forward. The narrator is first rate, couldn't recommend him any more.

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  • Black Mary
  • 06-20-17

A stunning narration of an interesting tale.

After a very slow start which took a while to ignite my interest, I became captivated by the skill of the narrator in creating the voices of the different characters. He is so skilful that another person, overhearing part of the story thought that there was a full cast of players including women.
His skill hooked me into the tale which in itself became compelling and I was sorry when it ended.

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  • Helen
  • 06-05-17

A Man of Many Voices

Mark Meadows is a genius! In this magnificent epic tale of greed, gold, crime and grime, he voices at least 20 characters, each one believable and realistic (the Frenchman occasionally veers into 'allo 'allo territory, but that's just me being picky). There's a cast of thousands in this book (ok, around 15 - 20) and it does take a while to work out who's who and what's what. Over the course of the book, each character's back story is revealed bit by bit, along with their relationship with the other characters. All the lives are intertwined, and as the book gathered pace, I was desperate to keep listening. Mark Meadows reading really brought the story to life and made it a lot easier to recognise the characters than it would have been if I'd read the book myself. There are plenty of surprises and twists. I loved it. Eleanor Catton describes the mood and feel of the period beautifully, and although I'm not normally a fan of period pieces, the characters are so well drawn that it could have been set anywhere at any time. It's long - 3 downloads - but time flew by while I was listening and I found myself volunteering to do extra ironing just so that I could listen for longer. Highly recommended, and if anyone can tell me the significance of what Moody saw on the ship he sailed in on, that would be a bonus.

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  • Miss
  • 06-01-17

A wonderful tale filled with twists and turns

I loved every minute. I am already looking forward to starting again! A fantastic tale, beautiful written and extremely well performed. Due to it's length I did get a little lost at times but thoroughly enjoyed it from start to finish.

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  • jnowlrose
  • 06-01-17

love all of it!

brilliant book and fantastic narration. I was hooked from the outset. highly recommend it to anyone.

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  • ebg
  • 05-25-17

A Wonderful Story

I've listened to The Luminaries twice and will no doubt listen again soon. It is a wonderful, complex, human story and very well read. Highly recommended.

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  • sliceandserve
  • 05-19-17

That's a heavy plod...

Wonderful, layered, detailed, conceptual, historical. But boy it's hard-going. Very glad someone was reading it for me!

And what a great job this narrator has done. The voices, accents, and careful presentation, was appreciated; I didn't give up because of these.

The story is solid, has colourful characters, and a wonderful complex plait of comings and goings, plots and fortunes. The intertwined stories may be a challenge if you're not dedicating good chunks of time to this book.

I chose it for the promised New Zealand pioneer history, and this is both well-referenced and adds depth to what, under other circumstances, may have been a collection of petty crimes, coinciding with... a murder!

I was going to say it will make a very good movie - but the BBC has picked it up to adapt into a tv series... so even better.

I liked it. And it really lends itself to a screen version.

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  • Kim
  • 09-01-16

Well worth a listen!

Where does The Luminaries rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, but if I was reading it myself i am not sure I would have made it all the way through. It is a real commitment and audio book was the best way for me to get through it! Eleanor Catton writes superbly, this book reads like a classic. Mark Meadows narration was first class, and truly added something wonderful to the story. The way he seamlessly and convincingly did so very many different accents was fabulous. The plot is complicated but compelling. Even now I am sure there are some subtleties I missed, I guess I will have to re-listen one day!

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  • Melissa Solomon
  • 08-25-16

An interesting experience

Whilst this book is beautifully written and the narration was well done it's definitely not a book I'd read or listen to again. Even with the chapter summaries it was hard to keep track of time, place and characters and I found the ending rather anticlimactic.

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  • Karen
  • 07-01-16

Not my cup of tea

Couldn't even finish this book which is unusual for me. Droning monotone of narrative irritated me.

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  • daniel
  • 06-22-16

confusing and boring

i bought this on sale for $8.99 thank god and had to play it X2 speed halfway through kus its too boring and confusing. the narrator wasnt bad but it just had way too many characters and a very very boring storyline... definately save your money AND time! i felt like everything couldve been finished in one chapter. thats 2 weeks of my listening i wont get back!

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  • michael
  • 04-06-16

Right now to do it all again :)

loved it but it leaves so many questions you have to go right back to it to get your answers!

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  • Bree Caton
  • 03-31-16

A fantastic, complex novel

Any additional comments?

The Luminaries is a remarkable feat of literature and a deserving winner of the Man Booker Prize. Mark Meadows handles a complex story with ease, giving distinct voices to around nineteen main characters. I forewarn you, be prepared to suspend your disbelief - there are a few too many coincidences in the storyline for it to be in any way plausible. But this is fiction, and plausibility should always take a backseat!

This is a novel that can be looked at in one of two ways. On the simplest level, it's a gripping mystery, with just the right level of suspense and plot twists to keep us guessing and speculating. Looking a little deeper, it's a hugely cerebral book. The author seems almost to have undertaken an exercise in creative writing, setting herself the very challenging task of ensuring that each character aligns with a particular star sign and that the characters interact only when their respective planetary bodies cross paths. I don't think that this particularly adds anything to the story - in fact, if anything, it potentially detracts from it, because it ensures that the characters remain static. I effectively found that the astrological side of things can be overlooked. It may have informed the structure for the author, but for us as readers, it holds little significance.

I was fairly hesitant to read this book at all, as I wasn't particularly interested in 1860s New Zealand as an historical era. But, I stand absolutely corrected on that front - Catton paints an incredibly detailed and vivid picture of life on the gold fields, and it isn't at all dull.

I actually think this is better as an audiobook that in hard copy. Mark Meadows does such a great job of voicing the many characters that it makes the story easier to follow and more entertaining. A brilliant read that I would certainly recommend to anyone with a spare 29 hours!

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  • imtralee
  • 01-31-16

worth it

it honestly took a while to get my head around the old style tale, and the repetition, but once i was in the zone of this story i was sad to reach the end. An imaginative well rounded story.

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  • Amanda Vermeulen
  • 01-29-16

Better suited to print

Any additional comments?

This is a very complex and detailed book, written beautifully, but given that few people have long uninterrupted periods of time for listening, hard to keep up with the audio. As much as I enjoyed the way Catton crafted this novel, I found it very slow and I lost interest. I did not finish the book.

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  • John
  • 12-22-15

Excellent narration

It was sheer determination that carried me through to the end of this book. Mark Meadows did a brilliant job with the narration but the story, whilst interesting, was laboriously told. Very disappointing for an award-winning book.

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  • KStewart
  • 09-01-15

Slow to start

I found the style quite hard to listen to at first. That old world formal type of sentences. But as the story progressed I got into the swing of it.
I found the characters bit hard to distinguish at the beginning, but again with a little perseverance this became clearer. Eventually I was quite taken by the story and characters and found it hard to put the book down. A great read.