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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.
What other book might you compare The Luminaries to and why?
The Bones of Paris.<br/>Another delightful twisting story about an age and place that little is written of.
Would you consider the audio edition of The Luminaries to be better than the print version?
Yes! I read the book when it came out but felt that I couldn't adequately untangle the complex narrative and that I missed a lot. Mark Meadows is absolutely, astonishingly capable of juggling the accents and intonations of dozens of characters, a dozen or so of those being main players. He can do Irish, Scottish, English, Swedish, Chinese, French, men, women, high class, lower class, and more. And none of the characters share HIS voice, the voice of the narrator! Mind blown. He has enriched my understanding of this wonderful novel a thousand fold.
Who was your favorite character and why?
There are so many characters, and all are incredibly detailed. My favorite sympathetic characters are the Maori, Te Rau Tauwhare, the owner of the Gridiron hotel, Edgar Clinch, and the newspaperman, Benjamin Lowenthal. I also really like the characters of Aubert Gascoigne and Walter Moody.
Have you listened to any of Mark Meadows’s other performances before? How does this one compare?
No, but what I wouldn't give for him to re-do Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell! The current version is incredibly disappointing. I couldn't even get through it. The multiple, painfully poor narrators of Cloud Atlas could all be masterfully replaced by Mr. Meadows. If Mark Meadows re-did that novel I would pay ANY price to hear it.
Who was the most memorable character of The Luminaries and why?
Impossible. There is no solid MAIN character. This is an ensemble effort. The best part of this audiobook is hands-down the narrator.
Any additional comments?
If you've read this novel and were left confused or unsure what to think, I highly recommend this audible version. Due to the complexity, I recommend glancing at the Wiki page or reading the first chapter to get a hold of the cast of characters so that you are better able to follow the story.
This is a very unusual construct. I loved the plot and the writing. The performance was one of the best I have heard!
This is a story that starts in the middle and ends at the beginning, which is an interesting approach but I found unsatisfying. Because I listened to it, I missed all the technical details and couldn't follow the astrological part at all.
The beginning was difficult in audio - it was hard to keep track of so many characters, especially given the expansive style of speech of the time. Eventually it was easy to listen to and ultimately I didn't mind the length. I liked the setting - both in place and time - and the story was interesting. But in 30 hours I expected to be more engaged with the people and I wanted to care more about them. So ultimately the story has interesting architecture, but for me lacks heart.
What made the experience of listening to The Luminaries the most enjoyable?
So jealous of Catton's talent! It took me a while to get into this book. I sometimes have trouble with male narrators. I bought the book version and may read it again, there's so much to capture. I mean, she's no Henry James or Jane Austen, but this book is pretty brilliant. Enjoy! (The ending will really get you and you'll have to go back and relisten!)
I wasted 30 hours thinking that eventually the hard to follow plot would come together. instead, having evidently run out of time or space or her advance, Catton tries to wrap it up in a chapter heading (!) at the end. Authorial malpractice.
loved this book! worth the time! everything is woven together perfectly from start to finish. intelligent prose, entertaining, fascinating human story.
Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?
I would not recommend this audio book to most people. The story is long and convoluted. It gets a bit tedious over time. I would probably recommend a hard copy rather than an audio version as it is a little easier to keep things straight w/ a hard copy, as you can go back to check on previous story details more easily. The audio copy that I downloaded from audible was missing most of the last chapter. I down loaded it twice so I know it wasn't a download issue.
Have you listened to any of Mark Meadows’s other performances before? How does this one compare?
this book has many characters and a story that keeps getting more side stories so without the brilliant narration of Mark Meadows it would have been agony to follow.
If you could take any character from The Luminaries out to dinner, who would it be and why?
I can't say any of the characters were likable, but most were very plausible.
Any additional comments?
it was a study in human character,regardless where it is, but also shined a light on the gold rash era of New Zealand.
What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?
a map and outline
Has The Luminaries turned you off from other books in this genre?
How could the performance have been better?
I am still interested in this title, but this is a story with many layers of stories embedded within. Well, I am 2 hours into it and so far this is what I've got. I listen to many, many audiobooks but this one is just not working for me. I need visuals to make this one work. I don't walk away from books very often, but I'm walking from this one.
What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?
Cleverly constructed and eloquently executed story. I liked the astrological headings and complex weaving of characters. Very educational too. Never really knew much about the New Zealand gold rush before.
Would you listen to The Luminaries again? Why?
The intoxicating mix of voice tone, character motive and strange setting kept me wanting more- like the train journey I was on, I sped through this audio book whereas the great tome of a book had been off putting.
Would you be willing to try another book from Eleanor Catton? Why or why not?
I'm unsure that I will as she complicated Luminaries with her astrological chart material, and the unusual conversational style worked better in audio.
Which scene did you most enjoy?
The original scene in the Hotel Lounge I thought a great introduction, through Walter Moody.
Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?
Not much of an emotional reaction except maybe to Anna's plight.
Although difficult to get into and complex in its structure this novel is hugely rewarding by its end.
this book was long. now, I like long books, so that was great. it started well, but then, just as it all came together my brain started asking questions of the plot I couldn't answer. maybe I missed something in the intricate plotting! spoiler alert, with what money did emery stains buy his hotel, or make his way in the world?! he only saw other peoples money going through his fingers, and then buys a hotel from nothing. anyway, I may have missed something, and the writing is good, I liked the style and the character examination. my main complaint is that so many characters were drawn I wanted them all to reach a conclusion of some kind and this didn't happen.. hmmm.. not for me. but give it a go anyway! its definitely a brilliant book!
A tedious one to follow. Story jumps around and crowded with too many characters that really contribute nothing much to the plot.
I'm afraid I was unable to fathom the depths of this most unusual literary work. I quite enjoyed the plot at the level of a good mystery, but the greatest mystery of all is the significance of the zodiacal references. I now need to read a great many other reviews in the hope of illumination!
I liked the narrator's voices for the characters but found the overall style of narration rather irritating.
Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?
Not really. Sure, the author has researched this brilliantly but I like a faster paced book. This is long and slow and infinitesimally detailed. A great book for those who appreciate this sort of work I'm sure. Just not for me.
Would you recommend The Luminaries to your friends? Why or why not?
Yes to my friends who like this sort of thing. No to those who are more like me.
What aspect of Mark Meadows’s performance might you have changed?
The performance was okay, can't think of any changes that would improve anything.
Could you see The Luminaries being made into a movie or a TV series? Who would the stars be?
I could see it being made into one of those quality, long Sunday TV serials they used to make more of when I was younger.<br/>I wouldn't go and see it if it was a movie.
Good book. Persevere with it and it delivers in spades. A book of connections and linkages but also one that conveys a raw feeling of a new frontier on the gold mines of New Zealand in the 1860's.
I'm sure it is very clever to reveal the complexities of plot and relationships by jumping backwards and forwards in time: it is also very confusing and irritating! Well performed by the narrator though.
Would you try another book written by Eleanor Catton or narrated by Mark Meadows?
Did not enjoy from the start. Could not get into it and have given up trying.
What could Eleanor Catton have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?
How did the narrator detract from the book?
You didn’t love this book--but did it have any redeeming qualities?
No if it did I would have stayed with it and hoped for improvement