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The Luminaries: A Novel (Man Booker Prize) Hardcover – October 15, 2013
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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." -- Bill Roorbach, New York Times Book Review
"A finely wrought fun house of a novel. Enjoy the ride."- Chris Bohjalian, The Washington Post
"An 848-page dish so fresh that one continues to gorge, long past being crammed full of goodness. Nearly impossible to put down, it's easily the best novel I've read this year." - Mike Fischer, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
"Go ahead and call Eleanor Catton a prodigy. At 28, she's the youngest author ever to win Britain's prestigious Man Booker Prize for THE LUMINAIRES, which warrants every one of its imposing - yet surprisingly breezy - 848 pages." Stephan Lee, Entertainment Weekly
"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
"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)
"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."
"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
"Beautifully rendered...Momentous. An exquisite world unto itself."
"A remarkable achievement...Intricate, painstakingly detailed and deliciously readable...A novel that can be enjoyed for its engrossing entirety, as well as for the literary gems bestowed on virtually every page."
-Quill & Quire (starred review)
"As beautiful as it is triumphant."
"Falling in love with a fictional person is one of the greatest pleasures in life, Canadian-born writer Eleanor Catton believes. By the time readers have finished The Luminaries, they will have been enchanted by many of her characters, as they slowly reveal themselves through the novel's intriguing web of interactions and relationships."
To call it "daringly ambitious in its reach and scope doesn't really do it justice... There is a ludic quality in all this that is infectious: You pick up the author's joy in her enterprise." -Martin Rubin, The Wall Street Journal
"Several of the characters... are moving and even heartbreaking." She continues, "There will no doubt be readers who will nestle voluptuously into its 19th-century voice and think no more of larger matters...There are others who will treat The Luminaries like the fantastic puzzle it most certainly is. This is the rare novel that works beautifully on both levels, and that understands that each of these aspects is like a magnetic pole: The field between them is where all the power lies." - Laura Miller, Salon
Selected as one of the "100 Notable Books of 2013" by The New York Times.
"A historical mystery unlike anything else." -- The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
About the Author
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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.
As many reviewers mentioned, this is an exceptionally well-written book, with a complicated, non-linear plot requiring (on my part) taking notes on the characters, places, times and relationships both revealed and secret between each of these elements. About half way through I stopped to re-skim the pages read up to the point to be sure I "had the story straight" before delving into the final, lengthy reveal of the myriad storylines. I am quite glad I took the time to do this, because the book is laden with characters who use secrets and have aliases that some characters know and others don't, demands some understanding of New Zealand geography, and unfolds (I liked this, but it did get a tad overwhelming) through story lines that jump back and forth through time and locale.
Nevertheless, I was gripped by the story and motivated to have a full understanding of all these aspects as I tackled the final 300 pages or so, so I happily made my four pages of notes and referenced them as I completed the book. I am also grateful to have had the kindle version, since one of the greatest features of the kindle is the ability to do a quick search on a name, place or term when it's immediate relevance escapes recollection or needs clarification.
The book ending (no spoiler here) seemed, as some have commented, almost as if Ms. Catton was in a hurry to sum things up, a sudden acceleration of the narrative that I found surprising and maybe a bit off-putting. The last few pages almost sum up the entire story...
As mentioned above, I had the kindle version and the audio book. I relied mostly on the kindle for the last 100 pages or so. I found the audio book narrator, Mark Meadows, to be marvelous! His ability with accents and in particular his delicious interpretation of Lydia was inspired, and his excellent character distinctions did a great deal to help my own understanding of, and ability to differentiate between the many characters. Bravo, sir!
If you are one who had trouble with complicated plots, this may not be for you. As many have already attested, this book requires effort on the reader's part, not just passive participation .
[If you have finished the book, answer me this...MINOR PLOT ELEMENT REVEALED HERE]
I still find myself wanting to know how Anna was able to "communicate" with Emery, and was able to so accurately forge his signature.