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Editorial Reviews

Review

"The Luminaries is a true achievement. Catton has built a lively parody of a 19th-century novel, and in so doing created a novel for the 21st, something utterly new. The pages fly, the great weight of the book shifting quickly from right hand to left, a world opening and closing in front of us, the human soul revealed in all its conflicted desperation. I mean glory. And as for the length, surely a book this good could never be too long."—Bill Roorbach, New York Times Book Review

"Catton provides descriptions of her characters that are meticulous and precise...The result is a finely wrought fun house of a novel. Enjoy the ride."—Chris Bohjalian, Washington Post

"Irresistible, masterful, compelling...The Luminaries has a gripping plot that is cleverly unravelled to its satisfying conclusion, a narrative that from the first page asserts that it is firmly in control of where it is taking us...[Catton is] a mistress of plot and pacing..."—The Telegraph (5-star review)

"The type of novel that you will devour only to discover that you can't find anything of equal scope and excitement to read once you have finished...Do yourself a favour and read The Luminaries."—The Independent

"Note-perfect... [Catton's] authority and verve are so impressive that she can seemingly take us anywhere; each time, we trust her to lead us back ... A remarkable accomplishment."—Globe and Mail

"A very clever, absurdly fun novel that reads like a cross between a locked-room mystery, a spaghetti Western, a game of Sodoku, and Edwin Drood."—New York Magazine

"To say that The Luminaries is daringly ambitious in its reach and scope doesn't really do it justice."—The Wall Street Journal --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Eleanor Catton’s debut, The Rehearsal ― which Kate Atkinson called “compulsively good...it continually calls into question the relationship between so-called reality and fiction, and the very nature of truth itself” ― won the 2009 Betty Trask Award, was short-listed for the Guardian First Book Award and the Dylan Thomas Prize, and was long-listed for the Orange Prize. She holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and an MA in fiction writing from the International Institute of Modern Letters. She lives in Auckland, New Zealand.
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Product Details

  • MP3 CD
  • Publisher: Brilliance Audio; MP3 Una edition (November 26, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1480592595
  • ISBN-13: 978-1480592599
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.5 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,550 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,189,651 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1,669 of 1,762 people found the following review helpful By Mary Lins TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 15, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Gushing reviews are easy to write, (so are pans), but what to say when you know that a book is well written, innovatively and creatively structured, and is destined to be loved by many, but it just didn't appeal to you? "The Luminaries" by Eleanor Catton, is such a book. Short-listed for the Booker Prize, this novel, that weighs in at over 800 pages, takes a bit of a commitment to get into and, once invested, it must "grab" you to continue. I got half-way through and then had to have a "talk with myself" about continuing. It just isn't my kind of novel and continuing was going to take too much of my precious reading time. Yet, I was far enough in to see that its innovative style of folding back in on itself will appeal to many readers. It's like a complicated pastry; the plot is kneaded and folded to produce the confection intended. This is not a novel for readers who like their plots to be linear.

Catton's writing style is beautifully lush and vividly descriptive. Her descriptions of the myriad characters are wonderfully rendered both in the descriptions of their physical selves and of their inner selves. Catton also creates a unique and interesting setting of a New Zealand gold mining town in the mid-nineteenth century.

I'm posting this candidly honest review to help other readers ascertain if they are the type of reader who will enjoy this unique novel, or not.
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449 of 481 people found the following review helpful By Darryl R. Morris on August 25, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This astonishing historical novel opens in Hokitika, New Zealand in 1866, a gold mining town along the West Coast of the South Island. Founded two years previously, Hokitika is in the midst of a population boom, as prospectors, hoteliers and other businessmen have flocked there after news of its vast riches and promise of easy wealth has reached people living within and outside of New Zealand. One of those men is Walter Moody, a young Englishman who is trained in law but seeks gold to provide him with material comfort and the start of a new life. He arrives in town after a harrowing and emotionally distressing voyage at sea, and after he checks in at a local hotel he proceeds to its smoking room, where he hopes to unwind with a pipe and a stiff drink. Upon his arrival he notices that 12 men are already there, who appear to be from different backgrounds but also seem to have gathered in secret for a particular reason. The atmosphere in the room is tense and troubled upon his entry, but in his agitated state Moody doesn't sense that he has disturbed them. He is approached by one of the men, while the others appear to direct their attention toward their conversation, and after slowly gaining their confidence the men begin to share their intertwined stories with Moody, and the reason for their confidential meeting.

The story is centered around several mysterious and apparently interconnected occurrences that took place two weeks previously on a single night, including the death of a hermit in a shack overlooking town, the disappearance of a young man who has struck it rich in a gold mine, and the apparent near suicide of the town's most alluring prostitute.
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176 of 192 people found the following review helpful By Ripple on September 7, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Eleanor Catton's "The Luminaries" is set in the New Zealand gold rush of the late 1860s. It's a story about greed, power, gold, dreams, opium, secrets, betrayal and identity, but most of all, it's a celebration of the art of story telling, both in terms of Catton's book and the stories her characters have to tell. It's the kind of book that is perfect escapism and which wraps you up in its world. If you like big, chunky books that you can get lost in for hours, then this is one for you.

Second novels are notoriously tricky, especially when they follow one that has received the critical acclaim that Catton had for her debut, "The Rehearsal". Fortunately, no one seems to have told Catton this and "The Luminaries" is a very different style of book but one that is an even more remarkable and memorable achievement. Also notable is Catton's writing style. This was the standout feature of her debut novel and this is equally stylish but in a very different way. There are hints and nods to some great writers both period and more modern throughout, notably a touch of Charles Dickens, a splash of Wilkie Collins, a smidgeon of Robert Louis Stevenson, a dash of Salman Rushdie and a hint of David Mitchell, yet all combined in a freshness that is uniquely Catton's. It's more homage than a plagiarism of style. The one element that is common to both this and "The Rehearsal" is what comes over as the author's sheer love of story telling - there's a constant sense of fun in her descriptions and she writes as if she has a smile on her face and is as entranced by the story that is being set down as her readers are.
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204 of 224 people found the following review helpful By "switterbug" Betsey Van Horn TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 15, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Twelve men meet at the Crown Hotel in Hokitika, New Zealand, in January, 1866. A thirteenth, Walter Moody, an educated man from Edinburgh who has come here to find his fortune in gold, walks in. As it unfolds, the interlocking stories and shifting narrative perspectives of the twelve--now thirteen--men bring forth a mystery that all are trying to solve, including Walter Moody, who has just gotten off the Godspeed ship with secrets of his own that intertwine with the other men's concerns.

This is not an important book. There is no magnificent theme, no moral thicket, no people to emancipate, no countries to defend, no subtext to unravel, and no sizable payoff. Its weightiness is physical, coming in at 832 pages. And yet, it is one of the most marvelous and poised books that I have read. Although I didn't care for the meandering rambling books of Wilkie Collins, I am reminded here of his style, but Catton is so much more controlled, and possesses the modern day perspective in which to peer back.

I felt a warmth and a shiver at each passing chapter, set during the last days of the New Zealand gold rush. Catton hooked me in in this Victorian tale of a piratical captain; a Maori gemstone hunter; Chinese diggers (or "hatters"); the search for "colour" (gold); a cache of hidden gold; séances; opium; fraud; ruthless betrayal; infidelity; a politician; a prostitute; a Jewish newspaperman; a gaoler; shipping news; shady finance; a ghostly presence; a missing man; a dead man; and a spirited romance. And there's more between Dunedin and Hokitika to titillate the adventurous reader.

Primarily, THE LUMINARIES is an action-adventure, sprawling detective story, superbly plotted, where the Crown Hotel men try to solve it, while sharing secrets and shame of their own.
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