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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

Overall

  • 3.7 out of 5.0
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Performance

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  • Gerald
  • MANLY, Australia
  • 04-17-15

Great writer. Good story. Brilliant reader.

The author slowly unfolds the story and the reader learns more about the characters as the story progresses. Although this is a long book, it never flags. The reader is exceptional.

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Wonderful reading

The performance added depth and clarity to the many characters. Having a written chart would help listeners make sense of the many characters and zodiac references

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Great take, beautifully written, confusing plot

Maybe because I listened to this on audio over several days, but I had a hard time keeping track of the time line of this historical mystery. But I did find myself captivated by the characters, the gold rush culture of New Zealand, and the real and surreal elements of the plot. Now sure hoe it turned out to be a love story but suddenly it was The End and lover is declared. Lovely to listen to a book so well written.

  • Overall

Long, detailed, lovely

A wonderful story with so many rich layers of detail. I am not sure I would have had the endurance to read the entire book, but I became positively addicted to having it read to me. The narration is brilliant!

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An Odd Ending

The narrator for this book was excellent and did a great job with so many accents. It was a pleasure to listen to this book.

I found the story very interesting and engaging until it dropped out at the end. I was left with the impression of the author scribbling the last 15 pages in the taxi on the way to the printing office as the deadline arrives. The novel was complex and well written for the majority of the story but so many threads seem to be left unaddressed. Overall I still liked this book. Maybe the author is leaving the door (wide) open for a sequel.

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fantastic!

narrator has exquisite accents from all over uk and nz. Looking fwd to more from this author

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  • Kate
  • Kenwood, CA, United States
  • 03-12-15

Performance not my cup of tea

I am going to have to return the book and purchase a copy to read.

It is not the actual story or the writing that is putting me off but the way the reader uses far too much of a strange kind of up-speak inflection that is sort of getting my goat.

I'm not saying that he is not a good reader and many people might like his style. However, for me, it is somewhat irritating and I cannot continue listening.

The portion of the tale that I have read was engrossing and interesting and I want to read more.

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Would have been better to actually read

Great story, but there were lots of characters and many dates and such. It would have been a little easier to follow if I'd actually read it instead of just listened.

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  • Story

UGH

Would you ever listen to anything by Eleanor Catton again?

No - not my style - too slow to get into the story, too long building up characters.

Any additional comments?

To be fair - I haven't listened to the entire book I've given up at ~14 hrs into it - believe me I tried to like it - however the start is excruciatingly slow. Perhaps there is a good story buried but for the life of my I just can't get into it. I typically choose books of great length so it's not that it's a long book (29hrs +).

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tremendous effort

but the convoluted plot becomes a detriment to the development of far too many characters.

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  • Linsey
  • 11-12-14

disappointing ending

Would you try another book written by Eleanor Catton or narrated by Mark Meadows?

yes, i'd consider it

Any additional comments?

I really enjoyed this up to the last few chapters. They would be around 20 minutes throughout the book but then just 2 minutes towards the end and I don't think it cleared things up properly, not a proper ending. Everything was well thought out / explained / told but the ending was rushed.

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  • Hels Bels
  • 10-29-14

Dire!

What would have made The Luminaries better?

By halving the length & condensing the plot.

What was most disappointing about Eleanor Catton’s story?

Far too long winded. Too many characters involved and it all got very confusing with the backwards & forwards approach to the plot.

What about Mark Meadows’s performance did you like?

He made the book.......without his brilliant interpretations of the various characters, it would have been even more of a disaster!

Any additional comments?

Really disappointed with the end!

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  • Lee
  • 10-17-14

Go Abridged

What disappointed you about The Luminaries?

It is very well written and has lots of depth, but as others have said its slower than slow.<br/><br/>I struggled with this book and for the first time in 5 years of listening to audio books, I wished I'd had the abridged version, as I really don't think you would miss anything.

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

Mark Meadows narration of the many characters in this book was excellent, and each was distinctive from their speech

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  • Nigel Nicholson
  • 10-10-14

Too much plot - too little purpose

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

I would to someone looking for terrifically written and complicated narrative - but it's a lot of work - I mean a long book, and one wonders why, after it all.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Irrelevant question - hardly anything to do with the merits of the title

Any additional comments?

This is one of the best plotted and carefully crafted works of fiction I've read in a long time, but where is the engagement? There's hardly anyone one cares about - almost like reading history of dead people. Ian McKewen's much shorter little masterpiece, The Children Act, accomplishes so much more in terms of moral complexity, character and revelation than this very long book comes close to

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  • Sarah
  • 09-25-14

I absolutely cannot fathom why people like this.

What would have made The Luminaries better?

Clearly plenty of other people loved this book but I found it incredibly frustrating. Dull, slow, relentless, overly descriptive, pointless, monotonous, irritating... you get the point.

Has The Luminaries put you off other books in this genre?

No. I usually love a lengthy book or saga.

Would you be willing to try another one of Mark Meadows’s performances?

Nope. I thought his narration was a bit pretentious.

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

I have no idea as I couldn't get past part one. I reckon all the scenes I listened to would be up for the chop. If there really is something spectacular going on here, some serious editing is required to give it some pace. I just couldn't devote any more time to it.

Any additional comments?

I can't believe this is worthy of a prize. I suspect the panel must have also lost the will to read it all and gave it lots of points for length and trying to sound 'in period'. <br/><br/>I'll be asking to return this one to Audible.

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  • Roderic
  • 09-24-14

Fascinating if convoluted read

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

The book is quite hard to classify. I found it engaging throughout and interesting in its depiction of the New Zealand 'frontier'. Its plot and telling are quite original and left me wanting to look back from time to time (difficult with an audiobook).

Who was your favorite character and why?

The book is filled with a large cast of fleshed out characters. Some of them are not resolved. I did particularly like the Rev Devlin.

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  • Joan
  • 09-22-14

Terrific story, beautifully read. Don't miss this

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

The story was subtle, the descriptions of both the characters and the locations beautiful. The plot was clever, but not too clever, and a hint of a ghost story..<br/>

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  • Mrs. B
  • 09-14-14

Mark Meadows is amazing

What did you like about this audiobook?

Mark Meadows is so talented a reader and actor and interpreter of fiction that he rescued this interminable book for me. I read it for my book group and only managed it because of the reader's great work, which made it interesting for me.

How has the book increased your interest in the subject matter?

Possibly I now have an inch more interest in the history of New Zealand.

Does the author present information in a way that is interesting and insightful, and if so, how does he achieve this?

Look, opinions are sharply divided on this book. Mostly it annoyed me, but lots of people love it. I thought it intricate and clever, but completely hollow.

What did you find wrong about the narrator's performance?

Not one thing. God bless him.

Do you have any additional comments?

Just really wanted to sing Mark Meadows' praises.

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  • Bookthrower
  • 08-25-14

Ambitious as Middlemarch but without the skill

This book reminds me of George Eliot's Middlemarch in its attempt to describe a whole community and how it interacts, and in the author's interposing of comments about human nature or philosophical observations on life. But whereas Eliot's characters have roundness and depth and come to life, those in The Luminaries are so cardboard I have trouble remembering which is which,so that at each turn of plot I have to work out who this is happening to and how it is likely to affect him or her. (Her is easier as there are only two females).This makes it very hard to empathise with the characters and care about what happens to them. I am only about half-way through, but I'm not sure I'll make it to the end.
To continue the comparison,where Eliot's authorial observations are apposite, insightful, and have a ring of truth, those in The Luminaries are unconvincing and tedious.
The performance is very good, and the narrator's skilful delivery of a variety of accents does
help to distinguish some individuals from the amorphous mass of masculinity (without it I would be really lost.)
I cannot begin to understand why this novel won the Booker Prize. But then, I only got through half of Wolf Hall before boredom overcame me, so perhaps I just don't have the intellectual stamina to cope with Booker Prize material.

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  • Briggsy
  • 08-17-14

I just didnt get it.

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

I found this dull and over long. I think the author was paid by the word as you hear the whole story and then it is repeated.

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

As short less repetitive book would have been much better.

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

Mr Carver as he was the only character that bought a bit of drama to the whole proceedings.

You didn’t love this book--but did it have any redeeming qualities?

I got value for money as it was such a long audio book.

Any additional comments?

I would listen to this while doing chores around the house. I listened every day. After 3 days my wife asked why I was replaying the book ? I replied, I wasn't and that the story is often repeated. Her reply was how dull. I agree.