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The Luminaries Paperback – October 7, 2014
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This month's Book With Buzz: "The Silent Corner" by Dean Koontz
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"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
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
-- An escape into the lushness of Victorian literature and the imaginary world of a New Zealand coal mining town;
-- A crime novel-detective story where the somewhat virtual 'detective' keeps fading in and out;
-- An intricate puzzle that will consume all your attention, perhaps until you've read most of it twice or until you, like another reviewer, need some relief from the required concentration;
-- A love story;
-- An example of a (rather artificial) astrological organizing principle, one that is, I suppose, as good as any;
-- A rumination on themes like colonization, arrival, stereotypes, etc.;
-- A morality piece highlighting the slippery nature of The Good.
After you've read, you will no doubt be able to come up with additional readings, and, from my experience of this book, I'm sure Catton witll be 'down' with them, even delighted.