317 of 340 people found the following review helpful
A brilliant historical novel that could win this year's Booker Prize,
This review is from: The Luminaries (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. Every man in the room claims to be innocent of any direct involvement, yet they all appear to share some responsibility in the events that led up to these crimes, and each one fears that he may be accused and held accountable.
The reader learns more about these 12 men, Moody, and several other key players, as the story takes on a more defined shape. However, just as it seems to become more clear new twists arise and relationships emerge between previously unconnected characters, which made the tale more compelling and delightfully puzzling. I exclaimed out loud numerous times at various points ("Wait, what?" "Whoa!", etc.), and except for one relatively dead spot near the novel's midway point I was captivated from the first page to the last.
No review could adequately convey the intricacy and complexity of this novel, along with its numerous subplots and themes, and Catton's ability to maintain its momentum through 832 pages was akin to a performer riding a fast moving rollercoaster while juggling various objects of different sizes for hours on end. My biggest critique is its ending, which felt rushed and overly tidy, and despite its length I would have preferred for it to have been extended by another 50-100 pages.
"The Luminaries" is a masterful literary symphony, and a work of historical fiction that compares favorably with similarly superb novels such as The Children's Book, The Stranger's Child and The Glass Room. There are few books of this size that I would love to start reading again immediately after finishing it, but this is one of them, and young Ms Catton is to commended for a brilliant novel that should be a strong contender for this year's Booker Prize.
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Showing 1-10 of 11 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Sep 24, 2013 8:19:29 PM PDT
Mary Lins says:
I'm really interested in this book! He did you get to read it already ?
In reply to an earlier post on Sep 29, 2013 5:33:35 AM PDT
I purchased it from Amazon UK, since I'm reading through the Booker Prize longlist and didn't want to wait for it to be released in the US in mid-October. The list price for the UK hardcover is £20, but I was only charged £20.17 by Amazon UK, including the shipping cost from the UK to the US.
Posted on Oct 15, 2013 2:44:05 PM PDT
L. Bryan says:
A correct prediction back in august!!
Posted on Oct 16, 2013 9:34:56 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Oct 16, 2013 9:36:29 AM PDT]
Posted on Oct 16, 2013 9:36:17 AM PDT
Judith A. Weller says:
YOu seem to be describing a mystery story? Is it a mystery story? DOes the time span go past the men and people you meeting in the beginning? I tend not to like Booker Prize books as somehow they tend to look for "kitchy" styles in which a reader can easily lose interest.
In reply to an earlier post on Oct 17, 2013 3:30:18 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 18, 2013 5:46:30 PM PDT
Thanks, L. Bryan! I read all of the books that made the Booker Prize shortlist, and "The Luminaries" was my favorite of the six.
In reply to an earlier post on Oct 17, 2013 3:33:29 AM PDT
Yes, Judith, "The Luminaries" is a mystery. The story covers maybe 10-20 years, but the main plot takes place within a few weeks to months.
Posted on Nov 16, 2013 4:38:03 AM PST
C. M. Lin says:
This comment, by By Darryl R. Morris "Kidzdoc",
with prediction that this book by a young lady,
could win the Booker Prize, is itself a Master Prediction !
Tip my hat, to Darryle, the one who could see the value and achievement of a lady at such a young age.
LCM, Silicon Valley
Posted on Jan 6, 2014 8:04:51 PM PST
Han Na Lee says:
If you like this I'd recommend Saving Bill Murray
Posted on Jan 23, 2014 2:55:31 AM PST
Yvonne van Wensveen says:
What'd if Moody see exactly that upset him do much (before he disembarked, near the beginning if this book?
Could I have missed this?