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The Luminaries

Ortunes that is as complex and exuisitely ornate as the night sky Richly evoking a mid nineteenth century world of shipping banking and gold rush boom and bust The Luminaries is a brilliantly constructed fiendishly clever ghost story and a gripping page turn I'm a New Zealander like the author Everyone here is raving about this book including people who write great novels themselves I'm feeling pretty miserable about the fact that I couldn't get into it forced myself to read halfway started again and then gave up in despair I liked the beginning started to identify with the first character Moody then lost the plot when the other 14 or so main characters took over the story The faux 19th century style felt slightly forced and the sentences were for me indigestible After reading the first uarter of the book I have a vivid picture in my mind of Hokitika in the 1860s I like that about it At the same time it doesn't ring true that the leading lights in a pioneer community would care so deeply about the death of a hermit and apparent attempted suicide of a prostitute There was a sameness to the dialogue that didn't ring true to me either Sure I haven't read any 19th century novels for a long time and have forgotten the style Whatever the cause this book didn't enable me to suspend my disbelief I usually find that challenging novels pay me back for the effort I put into reading them I gain insights I identify with the characters I experience a different part of the world The Luminaries is so plot based that it didn't give me that payback As for the astrological aspect of the novel I just didn't get it and the book didn't inspire me to delve into it I don't feel good writing this about a fellow kiwi's great accomplishment I suspect a lot of my difficulties stem from the mysterydetective elements in this novel just not my cup of tea I was suited as a reader to Emily Perkins' The Forrests another long and challenging NZ novel but character based

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Librarian's note An alternate cover edition can be found hereIt is 1866 and young Walter Moody has come to make his fortune upon the New Zealand goldfields On the stormy night of his arrival he stumbles across a tense gathering of twelve local men who have m I'm abandoning this book with regret for having read it against my better judgement without thorough research And yes I'm two starring and reviewing an unfinished book If that offends you to your very core then stop reading now You've been warned1 There's a trend among reviews of three stars or less on this book to say things like I’ll simply attempt to explain why I gave such an accomplished book only 3 stars It’s just the sort of book I should have given 5 stars I am ashamed I am a foolish reader who like many take on a booker short list or a booker winner and expect it to wow me And it did and it didn't I have an unsophisticated mind Everyone here is raving about this book including people who write great novels themselves I'm feeling pretty miserable about the fact that I couldn't get into it forced myself to read halfway started again and then gave up in despair The Luminaries is a very long mystery novel which did not enlighten or move me I am probably not a good judgeI find these kinds of comments sad but telling Buck up goodreaders who don't much like The Luminaries There's enough conspiring against us to make us feel stupid; we don't need books to do that2 I'm way over feeling like it's some flaw in me when I don't like a book that almost everyone else likes It's not me book it's you I'm just not that into you We haven't spent that much time together then again I've read pages of you than are in the average contemporary novel but I know you well enough to know this isn't going to work out So farewell best of luck and I know you're going to find a whole heap o' love out there coz' you're a real looker you Man Booker3 Man Booker FFS 4 This book has two fatal flaws for me 1 fussy structure over character; 2 metaphor gone wild5 Although it's not really metaphor gone wild; like metaphor that is so subtle as to be irrelevant to most readersunless they know astrology well enough that they can pick up what she's doing using astrological concepts to illuminate character behaviourplot I certainly do not and did not6 I think astrology is fun but dumb here in both senses7 On structure I know it's there because I've been told so But all I felt while reading certainly in the first 300 pages was why is this language so expositional and why are these actions so overblown? Why do all these irrelevant details matter?8 They don't And neither do the characters although each one is really intriguing I would have liked them to be central to the plot and for the plot to be ascendant over structure I guess it wasn't in the stars9 Also setting New Zealand 1860 during a gold rush and early settlement I was so looking forward to being immersed in it; alas I got absolutely no feeling for it Biggest disappointment by far10 The final blow comes from a GR review citing The Guardian's review It's not about story at all It's about what happens to us when we read novels – what we think we want from them – and from novels of this size in particular Is it worthwhile to spend so much time with a story that in the end isn't invested in its characters?11 No12 I'm increasingly factoring opportunity costs into the arithmetic I do to determine whenif to abandon a book In other words I could've been reading Shirley Or Anna Karenina So 12 reflections on The Luminaries Heh See what I did there? LPAC versión Martina: Ley 39/2015, de 1 de octubre, del Procedimiento Administrativo Común de las Administraciones Públicas. Texto Legal (Derecho - Práctica Jurídica) of his arrival he stumbles across a tense gathering Palestina, zure mina (Taupadak) of twelve local men who have m I'm abandoning this book with regret for having read it against my better judgement without thorough research And yes I'm two starring and reviewing an unfinished book If that Facha offends you to your very core then stop reading now You've been warned1 There's a trend among reviews TRILOGÍA COMPLETA UN GIN TONIC, POR FAVOR of three stars Fil. Filosofía. Aula 3D - 9788468229485 or less Topofilia (General) on this book to say things like I’ll simply attempt to explain why I gave such an accomplished book Lingua galega e literatura 2º ESO. LOMCE (Libro de texto) only 3 stars It’s just the sort Manual de albañilería of book I should have given 5 stars I am ashamed I am a foolish reader who like many take Gramatika Dbh 1, ikaslearen liburua (i.bai.berri proiektua) - 9788483946220 on a booker short list Thomas Dekker. Mi lucha. or a booker winner and expect it to wow me And it did and it didn't I have an unsophisticated mind Everyone here is raving about this book including people who write great novels themselves I'm feeling pretty miserable about the fact that I couldn't get into it forced myself to read halfway started again and then gave up in despair The Luminaries is a very long mystery novel which did not enlighten Sintoísmo. La Vía De Los Kami (Filosofía y Religión) or move me I am probably not a good judgeI find these kinds Durar más en el sexo: Controla cuerpo y mente. Olvídate de la crema y spray retardante of comments sad but telling Buck up goodreaders who don't much like The Luminaries There's enough conspiring against us to make us feel stupid; we don't need books to do that2 I'm way Shipwrecks around Lands End over feeling like it's some flaw in me when I don't like a book that almost everyone else likes It's not me book it's you I'm just not that into you We haven't spent that much time together then again I've read pages Modern Spain of you than are in the average contemporary novel but I know you well enough to know this isn't going to work Journey into Madness out So farewell best Sgàile (Espectro) (Espectro) (Taibhse, of luck and I know you're going to find a whole heap Essential Classic X-Men, Vol. 3 o' love Body Types out there coz' you're a real looker you Man Booker3 Man Booker FFS 4 This book has two fatal flaws for me 1 fussy structure Ändere nicht deinen Partner, ändere dich selbst: Negative Beziehungsmuster erkennen und auflösen: So machen Sie nie wieder dieselben Fehler over character; 2 metaphor gone wild5 Although it's not really metaphor gone wild; like metaphor that is so subtle as to be irrelevant to most readersunless they know astrology well enough that they can pick up what she's doing using astrological concepts to illuminate character behaviourplot I certainly do not and did not6 I think astrology is fun but dumb here in both senses7 On structure I know it's there because I've been told so But all I felt while reading certainly in the first 300 pages was why is this language so expositional and why are these actions so Le Thésaurus - Dictionnaire des Analogies overblown? Why do all these irrelevant details matter?8 They don't And neither do the characters although each Enslaved in Unknown World one is really intriguing I would have liked them to be central to the plot and for the plot to be ascendant The Mountain and the Fathers over structure I guess it wasn't in the stars9 Also setting New Zealand 1860 during a gold rush and early settlement I was so looking forward to being immersed in it; alas I got absolutely no feeling for it Biggest disappointment by far10 The final blow comes from a GR review citing The Guardian's review It's not about story at all It's about what happens to us when we read novels – what we think we want from them – and from novels News from a New Republic of this size in particular Is it worthwhile to spend so much time with a story that in the end isn't invested in its characters?11 No12 I'm increasingly factoring Beginner's Guide to ZBrush opportunity costs into the arithmetic I do to determine whenif to abandon a book In diseno de moda conceptos basicos y aplicaciones practicas de ilustracion de moda other words I could've been reading Shirley Or Anna Karenina So 12 reflections Los asquerosos on The Luminaries Heh See what I did there?

Eleanor Catton õ 8 summary

Et in secret to discuss a series of unexplained events A wealthy man has vanished a prostitute 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 f Click here to watch a video review of this book on my channel From Beginning to Bookend An impressive literary feat – intricate challenging and singularly structured to mimic the waning moon – that will likely appeal to fans of The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins or anyone in the mood for a demanding mystery of coincidence and collusion laced with corpses prostitutes and buried treasure


10 thoughts on “The Luminaries

  1. says:

    The curious case of the 3 star review I reviewed The Luminaries for We Love This Book a web magazine that is now defunct; here I’ll simply attempt to explain why I gave such an accomplished book only 3 stars It’s just the sort of book I should have given 5 stars my MA is in Victorian Lit Charles Dickens is a favorite author and I adore historical fiction particularly Victorian pastiche Possession The Crimson Petal and the White and English PassengersAnd yet The Luminaries didn’t grab me It has all the elements of a pitch perfect Dickensian mystery novel long lost siblings forgeries opium dens misplaced riches a hidden cache of letters illegitimate offspring assumed identities a séance a witty and philosophical omniscient narrator’s voice and so on If this was a Victorian paint by numbers competition Catton would have top marks But something is lacking here I can’t help feeling that despite its technical perfection The Luminaries is a book without a beating heartLest I seem unfair here are some of the novel’s strengths Catton proves a dab hand at revealing characters through both minute physical description and acute psychological insight She’s especially good at examining interiority vs exteriority one of my favorite lines was “he built his persona as a shield around his person” and the ways stories are altered in subseuent retellings Her use of contemporary slang circumlocutions “d—ned” chapter introductions “In which” and a host of overarching fairy tales and ideologies including the angel whore dichotomy of nineteenth century womanhood and the witch vs the babes in the wood brothel keeping fortuneteller Lydia Wells against Anna Wetherell and Emery Staines is all spot on Staines in particular is a brilliant creation a thoroughly amiable guileless naïf to rival any of Dickens’s fresh faced heroes And indeed the echoes of Dracula Moby Dick and the very best of Dickens – Our Mutual Friend especially but also Bleak House and Great Expectations – are well earnedIf I had to list a few minor uibbles I’d mention that some of the fascinating characters fade into the background as the novel progresses rendering the original council of 13 largely irrelevant brooding Walter Moody would have made for a great everyman protagonist and Tom Balfour promised to be a delightfully tenacious detective like Dickens’s Inspector Bucket Moreover especially in the first half Catton is over reliant on the tête à tête as a means of advancing the plot; it is easy to grow weary of the tedious string of one to one meetingsMy main problem however is with the opacity of the astrology angle The novel’s supposed uniueness lies in this astrological framing device but I remain unconvinced The esoteric material including horoscope charts at the start of each Part chapter titles that reference zodiac signs and lunar cycles that bring the narrative back around to meet its starting point adds little if anything to the plot Readers don’t need overt references to the Age of Pisces to spot themes of twinship and hiddenness – the clues are there already Further Catton’s commitment to portraying a full year’s astrological changes reuires looping back to revisit the events of 1865 6 for almost the full last uarter of the novel thus also the unsubtle metaphor of the ouroboros – the ancient symbol of a snake biting its own tail – and the translation of the town name “Hokitika” as something like “full circle”I do now understand how sly that cyclical techniue is it also ties in with the cover image of the waning moon; thank you to Elizabeth Knox Catton’s fellow New Zealander novelist for explaining that each successive Part is half the length of its predecessor – such that before long the chapter introductions are longer than the text they preface commentary exceeds action While I certainly recognize the skill that such a formal stricture displays once again this is proof to me of academic accomplishment rather than novelistic vitality In this respect the novel appears too clever for its own goodIt’s a somewhat dispiriting experience for the reader to feel the plot winding down around page 600 only to realize that another 230 pages remain I will make a defiant claim here I hold that the novel should have ended on page 628 for those with page numbers different to my ARC that’s after the first chapter of Part FourApart from a first rate courtroom scene you won’t miss much after that point You will already have unravelled all the vagaries of the plot by then and you can end on the sweet note of Anna and Staines arriving in New Zealand ready to face the myriad adventures that await them in the previous 627 pages If not there page 622 would do the end of Part Three or perhaps page 717 the end of Part Four But alas it’s as if Catton just doesn’t know when to put the book to restIn scope and seriousness The Luminaries rivals almost any Victorian triple decker – an impressive feat from a 28 year old author there’s no denying that Am I jealous at the scale of her accomplishment given that she’s two years my junior? Perhaps a touch Still I feel I’ve been fair here I love door stopper novels – when every page is necessary But when as is the case here nearly a uarter of the page count feels superfluous there’s something ever so slightly offI wish I could have deemed The Luminaries a five star book It’s a rollicking meticulously plotted mystery as well as an enjoyable read Plus it’s always nice to see something a bit different on the Booker longlist It deserves its accolades thus far and I do hope it makes the shortlist but did I love it? No; I admired it but it didn’t earn my affection Ergo three stars


  2. says:

    I am ashamedI am a foolish reader who like many take on a booker short list or a booker winner and expect it to wow me And it did and it didn't I have an unsophisticated mindTo any reader who reads books as an art critic views a great master they will read and hear the subtleties of the writer's mind as they structure their work layer upon layer until a masterpiece is drawn They will see and know the influences that formed the concept and guided the writer's pen in its construction And reading Eleanor Catton's masterful use of the English language and her homage to the Victorian masters of literature I was greatly humbled and completly understood why she was shortlisted She is a sublime writerFor a 'proper' review I would urge you to read Antinomasia's review on GR No review have I read sofar is so discerning and informed If I had read this before I bought and invested so much time reading a book too long for this reader to enjoy I would never have bought it in the first place It is a book for the discerning reader and not the 'pop' reader who likes his fiction to the point entertaining engrossing informative and exercising to a degree well I'm an easy read I am a lazy reader prolific but utimately shallow Present me with too many concepts and inventions in a book then I grow impatient Join too many 'exercises' in the writer's craft together and I become frustated Strip away the artists concept and if I do not have a picture that I can glimpse and enjoy for all its colour and story then all I see is a few suirls of paint thoughtfully applied but ultimately a poor picture to fill a mind with interest The Luminaries is an average storyIt is like so many winners of the Tate Prize in art How many winners would you really want to grace your shelves tabletops and alcoves? And at 800 pages the Luminairies is an 'instalation' and not a piece of work to sit upon a humble shelf alongside my Cornwell Austin and Dickens Rupert Bear Albums Tin Tin and Ant Dec Oh what a lovely pair My shelves no longer have room for such large tomes What can I remove to the charity shop Ant Dec perhapsSo I found The Luminairies a master writer'scrtitic's wet dream but as a story well sentence by sentence it is beautifully crafted but the shear number of them in relation to one scene or description particulary at the the beginning wore me down Characters were so many their voices seem to merge into the same sound They began to form a crowd in my mind all speaking the same voice their personalties indiscernible The astrology was lost on meThe Luminaries is indeed a worthy Booker winner It is art in writing But for a reader who takes Alister McClean to the beach Jeffrey Archer to bed and lies on the summer grass filling his head with Asimov I was never the reader for this book


  3. says:

    I'm abandoning this book with regret for having read it against my better judgement without thorough research And yes I'm two starring and reviewing an unfinished book If that offends you to your very core then stop reading now You've been warned1 There's a trend among reviews of three stars or less on this book to say things like I’ll simply attempt to explain why I gave such an accomplished book only 3 stars It’s just the sort of book I should have given 5 stars I am ashamed I am a foolish reader who like many take on a booker short list or a booker winner and expect it to wow me And it did and it didn't I have an unsophisticated mind Everyone here is raving about this book including people who write great novels themselves I'm feeling pretty miserable about the fact that I couldn't get into it forced myself to read halfway started again and then gave up in despair The Luminaries is a very long mystery novel which did not enlighten or move me I am probably not a good judgeI find these kinds of comments sad but telling Buck up goodreaders who don't much like The Luminaries There's enough conspiring against us to make us feel stupid; we don't need books to do that2 I'm way over feeling like it's some flaw in me when I don't like a book that almost everyone else likes It's not me book it's you I'm just not that into you We haven't spent that much time together then again I've read pages of you than are in the average contemporary novel but I know you well enough to know this isn't going to work out So farewell best of luck and I know you're going to find a whole heap o' love out there coz' you're a real looker you Man Booker3 Man Booker FFS 4 This book has two fatal flaws for me 1 fussy structure over character; 2 metaphor gone wild5 Although it's not really metaphor gone wild; like metaphor that is so subtle as to be irrelevant to most readersunless they know astrology well enough that they can pick up what she's doing using astrological concepts to illuminate character behaviourplot I certainly do not and did not6 I think astrology is fun but dumb here in both senses7 On structure I know it's there because I've been told so But all I felt while reading certainly in the first 300 pages was why is this language so expositional and why are these actions so overblown? Why do all these irrelevant details matter?8 They don't And neither do the characters although each one is really intriguing I would have liked them to be central to the plot and for the plot to be ascendant over structure I guess it wasn't in the stars9 Also setting New Zealand 1860 during a gold rush and early settlement I was so looking forward to being immersed in it; alas I got absolutely no feeling for it Biggest disappointment by far10 The final blow comes from a GR review citing The Guardian's review It's not about story at all It's about what happens to us when we read novels – what we think we want from them – and from novels of this size in particular Is it worthwhile to spend so much time with a story that in the end isn't invested in its characters?11 No12 I'm increasingly factoring opportunity costs into the arithmetic I do to determine whenif to abandon a book In other words I could've been reading Shirley Or Anna Karenina So 12 reflections on The Luminaries Heh See what I did there?


  4. says:

    5 superlative intricate and fascinating stars 4th Favorite Read of 2015 Wow just wow This is a very long book and so I developed a uiz to see if you are a potential reader of this most amazing tome1 Did you love The Alienist by Caleb Carr?2 Did you adore Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel?3 Do you like your mysteries intelligent complex and compelling?4 Do you like stories with elements of the supernatural murder blackmail and intrigue?5 Do you like your women wicked and your men wickeder?6 Do you like writing that is formal elegant and with a systematic style that ties in brilliantly to both plot and character?7 Are you fascinated by New Zealand or the chaotic wild west?If you answered yes to two or of these uestions then what are you waiting forgiddyup to your nearest bookstore or library and pick this up as it will take you many hours to finishOn a serious note this book is absolutely exuisite and perfect in every way Ms Catton at the age of 28 has written a novel that will stand the test of timeThis book reminded me of a complex mandalabroad at the outside and like a whirlpool draws you in uicker and uicker so that you are immersed in a world that you never want to leave This novel is systematic mystical and endlessly fascinating She uses astrological charts and also personality traits to predict the futures of her fifteen or so main characters One could easily do a PHD thesis on this work and believe me I'm sure there are people at it right nowMs Cattonthanks so darn muchI'm mighty obliged ma'am


  5. says:

    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 concernsThis 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 controlled and possesses the modern day perspective in which to peer backI 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 between Dunedin and Hokitika to titillate the adventurous readerPrimarily 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 There's even a keen courtroom segment later in the story And there are crucial characters that are not gathered in the Crown that night who link everyone together The prostitute and opium addict Anna Wetherell is nigh the center of this story as she is coveted or loved or desired by all the townspeopleThe layout of the book is stellar the spheres of the skies and its astrological charts You don't need to understand the principles and mathematics of astrology I don't but it is evident that knowledge of this pseudoscience would add texture to the reading experience as it provides the structure and frame of the book The characters' traits can be found in their individual sun signs such as the duality of a Germini The drawings of charts add to the mood and the chapters get successively shorter after the long Crown chapter The cover of the book illustrates the phases of the moon from full moon to sliver alluding to the waning narrative lengths as the story progressesBut onward also rolls the outer sphere the boundless present which contains the bounded pastTake note of the cast list at the beginning which is uite helpful for the initial 200 or 300 pages With so many vivid characters coming at you at once it is difficult at first to absorb However as the pages sail and they will if this appeals to you you won't even need the names and professions The story and its striking almost theatrical players become gradually and permanently installed thoroughly and unforgettably From the scar on Captain Francis Carver's cheek to the widow's garment on Anna Wetherell's gaunt frame the lively images and descriptions animate this boisterous vibrant storyCatton is a master storyteller; she combines this exacting 19th century style and narrator and the we that embraces the reader inside the tale with the faintest sly wink of contemporary perspective Instead of the authorial voice sounding campy stilted and antiuated there is a fresh whiff of nuanced canniness a knowing Catton who uncorks the delectable Victorian past by looking at it from the postmodern futureYou will either be intoxicated by this big brawl of a book or weighed down in its heft If you are looking for something than it is then look no further than the art of reading There's no mystery to the men; Catton lays out their morals scruples weaknesses and strengths at the outset The women had a little poetic mystery to them but in all these were familiar players she drew up stock 19th century characters but livened them up so that they leaped madly from the pages There isn't much to interrogate except your own anticipation If you've read COLOUR by Rose Tremain don't expect any similarities except the time place setting and the sweat and grime of the diggers Otherwise the two books are alike as fish and feathersThe stars shine bright as torches or are veiled behind a mist like the townspeople and story that behave under the various constellations Catton's impeccably plotted yarn invites us to dwell in this time and place At times I felt I mined the grand nuggets of the story and at other times it blew away like dustBut there is no truth except truth in relation and heavenly relation is composed of wheels in motion tilting axes turning dials; it is a clockwork orchestration that alters every minute never repeating never stillWe now look outwardwe see the world as we wish to perfect it and we imagine dwelling there


  6. says:

    Click here to watch a video review of this book on my channel From Beginning to Bookend An impressive literary feat – intricate challenging and singularly structured to mimic the waning moon – that will likely appeal to fans of The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins or anyone in the mood for a demanding mystery of coincidence and collusion laced with corpses prostitutes and buried treasure


  7. says:

    45 A rip roaring yarn and awe inspiring use of experimental form it's not every day you see that in a book Like Catton's previous near masterpiece The Rehearsal this suffers from a rather misleading cover The illustration and the very title The Luminaries seem to allude to a different world entirely a world of drawing rooms and calling cards and gowns p31 not a mystery adventure involving gold prospectors prostitutes drug addiction and frontier town bigwigs One likely to appeal to uite a number of readers who may be put off by the first impression of yet another AustenDickens pastiche The Luminaries certainly is a pastiche of a kind though it was never so overwhelmingly Victorian in its style as I expected after seeing a well known book blogger mention how he abandoned it Jeanette Winterson said If you want to read 19th century novels you may as well read the real thing and not go out and buy a reproduction It strays further from faithful Victorian reproduction after the early chapters still making wonderful use of the depth of characterisation that's too often missing from contemporary British novels And it's certainly faster reading than most nineteenth century originals The narrative voice has hints of George Eliot whom I was delighted to read Catton also prefers over the Brontes and Austen But perhaps because I've never read Wilkie Collins with whom this book's most often been compared so far the experience of reading The Luminaries made me think most of all of Arthur Conan Doyle back before I'd read the Holmes stories so often they'd become a little boring Tales of skullduggery and crime often recounted through the medium of conversations between men sometimes in the telling itself sometimes as a deep sea dive into a framed narrative like Heart of Darkness Still those were comparisons to the actual Victorian Neo Victorian isn't a trend in which I've had much interest other than the odd work by big names like AS Byatt Sarah Waters and Alan Moore The larger than life characters and the sheer pointless fun of this story do for me recall comics put into prose Michael Chabon was perhaps the most unlikely comparison I kept making as I read Catton seems like an intellect every bit as formidable as Byers but she so far has applied it to structure rather than essentially highbrow story topics Unlike Waters and many other historical novelists her application of modern values is subtle; characters are people of their time though perhaps a greater percentage of the well off white men are without fanfare decent and civil to ethnic minorities and to women of uestionable backgrounds than may have been the case in the real mid nineteenth century Characters of all origins are treated with eual dignity by the narrative again without ever making a song and dance about it which periodically gives a rather pleasant time warp effect The setting at least for most non ANZ readers has much novelty and interest when so much Victoriana focuses on London; plus it has similarities to the Wild West along with its own distinctive character It's often uite possible to imagine if only one could put the words together a bit nicely had greater stamina for writing at length c how it might have been possible to write various books The Luminaries though is from a writing perspective a fairly mind boggling achievement that sounds almost as difficultand almost as much a potential impediment to producing a good story as do the letter missing out antics of Georges Perec 1 It is a highly complex mystery which would in itself be a considerable invention2 Each of its 12 parts has a word count exactly half that of its predecessor3 Astrology a pre existing complex fictional system has been used as a starting point for the characters' interactions A three stairs in one stride step up in intricacy from the use of playing cards in The Rehearsal Not only that but Catton has partially refashioned astrology to her own purpose by making each of the main characters a sign or a planet and various buildings the houses on the chart such that for example Mercury in Aries means a meeting of those two characters I think it would also be perfectly possible to enjoy the book as a story whilst ignoring or knowing little of these aspectsTowards the end of the book it's possible to see the decreasing word count become slightly burdensome as the in which chapter descriptions start to near the length of the text they precede These same length constraints mean that there are several short chapters going into detail about earlier events to a level that isn't always necessary but which I nearly always found interesting At least Catton doesn't use this tailing off to tie the present fates of the characters up too neatly I and probably a lot of readers of a book like this prefer some unknowns at the end although it's not terribly Victorian What is impressive though is that the content never seems forced or unnatural only the layout and chapter divisions indicate something unusual is going onThe astrological themed characters are an object lesson in how a seriously good writer can make archetypes into interesting personalities few of whom end up seeming like stock characters; there's something atypical or unexpected about nearly all of them which offsets their origins Sometimes it's easy to spot how it's done eg a spendthrift dandy who's Scandinavian Most have a cartoonish yet complex uality which reminds me of good comics I didn't find out that twelve of the characters were based on star sign attributes though the planetary ones were clearer somehow from the obliue dramatis personae until I'd read over 200 pages Once I knew this it all fell into place – and I occasionally had to banish mental pictures of the early 90's Creme Egg ads when certain characters appeared – but given that a I know far than I'd like about astrology and b I think I read uite closely I was all the impressed with Catton's characterisation for not having been able to help making it ridiculously obvious as many authors would haveA drawback of the astrological scheme is that the planet in sign chaptering led to rather a lot of one on one conversations What they characters are saying is generally exciting and sometimes the chats become a framing device but the format led to a slight background monotony that was at odds with my otherwise great enjoyment of the book This is why it's a rounded down not rounded up 45 The uieter among these conversations in which we witness characters' communication of information some of which we may already know and their reactions and in which “telling not showing” is really part of the useful action reminded me of 18th 19th century epistolary novelsWhilst sceptics surely can't argue with the idea of using one made up system to make up something else I've noticed a few press reviews which are puzzled by the astrological basis of the novel when only one character Lydia Wells has any enthusiasm for star signs To me it seemed another mental leap by the author; to use this scheme for a story with a cast of hippies psychics etc would have been obvious Instead the story in The Luminaries is seasoned with astrology but not I would say overwhelmed by it – similar to the way Celine Julie Go Boating is seasoned with magic both stage and esoteric Though perhaps it's only if one's had much familiarity with astrology that it doesn't seem off key to see it applied to non adherents to things and people which seem unrelated to the subject Everyone has a horoscope whether they've ever taken any notice of it or not Even Richard Dawkins My own knowledge comes from OCD like phases of struggle with superstitious systems plus a tendency to hoover up information I managed to break from astrology after discovering “fixed star” astrology which added a near exponential number of extra possibilities so that crucially from within the system itself and not only from outside it all started to seem nonsensical and as if it could be made to say anything I was a little disappointed that according to this interview Eleanor Catton seems – for the moment to embrace astrology unuestioningly although she must be enormously intelligent But she has at least made a rather stupendous work of art out of it one started when she would have been only 26This is incidentally the first novel of its size I've finished in exactly six years The last one was Darkmans pure coincidence that the names almost mirror And like the Nicola Barker it was so enjoyable that the book was rarely burdensome even if I did take a day off in the middle for a sub 300 pager which helpedI would love to see The Luminaries win the Booker There are two or three contenders between which I can hardly choose Though its scale of ambition and experiment and sheer bulk lead inevitably to a few imperfections that wouldn't be found in a conventionally structured polished novel of a uarter of its length Regardless it was enormous fun very readable and ever so clever


  8. says:

    I'm a New Zealander like the author Everyone here is raving about this book including people who write great novels themselves I'm feeling pretty miserable about the fact that I couldn't get into it forced myself to read halfway started again and then gave up in despair I liked the beginning started to identify with the first character Moody then lost the plot when the other 14 or so main characters took over the story The faux 19th century style felt slightly forced and the sentences were for me indigestible After reading the first uarter of the book I have a vivid picture in my mind of Hokitika in the 1860s I like that about it At the same time it doesn't ring true that the leading lights in a pioneer community would care so deeply about the death of a hermit and apparent attempted suicide of a prostitute There was a sameness to the dialogue that didn't ring true to me either Sure I haven't read any 19th century novels for a long time and have forgotten the style Whatever the cause this book didn't enable me to suspend my disbelief I usually find that challenging novels pay me back for the effort I put into reading them I gain insights I identify with the characters I experience a different part of the world The Luminaries is so plot based that it didn't give me that payback As for the astrological aspect of the novel I just didn't get it and the book didn't inspire me to delve into it I don't feel good writing this about a fellow kiwi's great accomplishment I suspect a lot of my difficulties stem from the mysterydetective elements in this novel just not my cup of tea I was suited as a reader to Emily Perkins' The Forrests another long and challenging NZ novel but character based


  9. says:

    Review #642 in which the reviewer tries to fathom why she chose to read this book about the gold rush given that she'd avoided reading it for seven years and recounts how in the process of reading it she stumbled on an unlikely book connection that was lying in plain sight when she looked in the right place reminding her that if her fortune depended on finding book connections she'd be richI finished reading several collections of Jorge Luis Borges's stories recently and also spent an intense period reading through Nathalie Sarraute's work and the accumulation of ideas and styles in those books made it difficult to choose a reading direction afterwards My reading compass is usually set to 'one book leads to another' mode but this time the needle was spinning wildly and I was lost My hand picked a few random books from various piles but my mind refused to engage with any of them In desperation I searched for the stash of unread books in the spare bedroom left there on purpose for visitors to take away with them because I know I will never want to read them myself This book shouldn't even have been there because I meant to offload it during the last house move given that it's so large it takes up the space of three books If I kept it it was because I realised from the signature hot chocolate marks that my youngest daughter had read it and I was unwilling to discard a little bit of her reading history having lost so much of my own in the past Was it those rusty chocolate marks on the pages or the phases of the moon on the cover that caused me to pick The Luminaries from the shelf? I don't know but I did prise it out and started reading it and I didn't stop until I'd finished though it must have taken a complete lunar week The Luminaries is a story about a hoard of gold found stolen lost found stolen lost and finally found hidden in plain sight It's a long and slow story but several things kept me reading the detailed portraits of the secondary characters and the way the portraits of the two main ones by contrast are left in shadow for so long; the nineteenth century style with no anachronisms that I could detect; the vast knowledge about gold mining in New Zealand in the mid nineteenth century but which didn't weigh the story down; the way the inevitable violence was off stage leaving hardly a trace of blood on the pages; the way the chapters decreased in length corresponding to the phases of a waning moon the last chapter being a mere sliver; the way the chapter summaries increased in length as the chapters themselves decreased so that the final one is much greater than the chapter it summarizes few of the items in the summary were visible in the chapter itself reminding me of the parts of the moon that become invisible to us as it wanesThere were alas a few things I didn't care for the astrological charts for example but I consigned them to the other side of the moon the side we never see from earth—I figured the stars would know how to read themSpeaking of stars they are luminaries in that they are light giving bodies but I felt that the luminaries of the title were the waxing moon and the waning moon corresponding to the two main characters one bright but darkening the other dark but brightening Their unified story is also about a treasure lost and a treasure found a small and perfect love hidden within the larger story as small as a bright gold nugget another type of luminary hidden in a river bed Thinking about the full and new moons and about gold nuggets and about the amount of knowledge in the domains of geography history and astrology that underlie the larger story in this book I was reminded of the last book I read and I realised that there is a connection between The Luminaries and Borges's The Aleph unlikely as it might seem The Aleph according to Borges is an iridescent sphere of almost unbearable brightness A luminary in other words And Borges's luminary contains knowledge of all the history and geography of the world and even of the universe I love finding connections


  10. says:

    Aries the Ram thrusts forward discarding the past except as a symbol of what has been overcome Fearsome single minded Aries This book does not fall under the sign of Aries; it is invested in the past it is enchanted by it The past is such an important part of the novel that the narrative continues after its climactic resolution with a series of escalating chapters that take the reader back to where it all began The Luminaries' characters live under the shadow of their own pasts they judge others by their past actions as well Aries is well represented by Te Rau Tauwhare a Maori greenstone hunterTaurus the Bull is a sign of love in all of its strength and awkwardness its earthiness and purity Obstinate strong willed Taurus This book has a strong Taurean influence it has at its heart a passionate and moving story of star crossed lovers determined to persevere blind to reason two parts of a whole that yearn to merge Taurus is represented poorly by the aloof banker Charlie FrostGemini the Twins sharp and cutting a sign of the mind of the air Impulsive and restless Gemini This book has a marked Gemini influence in its clever narrative voice one often sidelined by description and dialogue yet still distinct full of wit and sly innuendo Gemini's influence is even stronger when considering the almost dizzying ingenuity of the book's look at me structure and its increasingly cheeky chapter introductions Gemini is represented by Benjamin Lowenthal a Jewish newspaper editor and a character in need of richer developmentCancer the Crab moons about in its shell moody and self absorbed yet caring and loyal to the end Complicated sensitive Cancer The Crab has little to do with The Luminaries except when looking at the novel in general terms A strong and thick hardcover book a complicated structure a soft heart lurking within Cancer is well represented by the hotelier Edgar ClinchLeo the Lion sits back the very image of self satisfaction a magnet to lesser men a sun that would have the whole universe revolve around it Confident and surprisingly generous Leo The heavy lidded sensuality of the Lion holds court throughout The Luminaries its beautiful imagery and its rich descriptive prowess openly displayed; well hung Leo also clearly influenced this book's impressive length Leo is represented by Dick lol Mannering a goldfields magnateVirgo the Virgin is the sign of this reviewer It is the most wonderful sign imaginable critical yet fair judgmental but only in the most loving of ways altruistic well read self sacrificing practically perfect in every way the Mary Poppins of the Zodiac All must bow to the wonder of Virgo The Virgin is terribly represented by uee Long who is about the opposite of any decent Virgo For shame Eleanor Catton you have betrayed the Zodiac with your libelous portrait of a so called Virgo Okay here's the one thing that bothered me about The Luminaries the way it treated its Asian characters Perhaps because I'm a hyper critical half breed who favors his Asian side I'm always on the look out for things to irritate me in the way that Asians are represented Now I don't think that Catton has an issue with Asians but it does chafe on a personal level how little they are respected in this novel I understand the lack of respect coming from other characters given the time and place But I resented their actual parts and paths in the narrative and that's all Eleanor Catton One Asian is presented as single minded in the most simple and greedy way possible; another is an opium addict and merchant whose tragic life and grand uest for revenge end in a limp little fizzle off of the page I raged a bit at the injustice of it allLibra the Scales is a sign of beauty and much like Beauty itself displays both grace and superficiality charisma and vanity Lovely indecisive Libra Libra's scales are seldom in balance; this sign seeks to make things eual and often fails And so it is with the author of The Luminaries a Libra on the cusp of Virgo Her favorites among the novel's astrological characters are dynamic and richly developed; those less favored are given mere cameo appearances But don't look for fairness from a Libra look for beauty And there is much beauty within the pages of The Luminaries Exuisite prose gorgeous imagery lovely moments within its lovely love story; the beautiful mind of its author yearning to be recognized for its brilliance and rewarded by the 2013 Man Booker Prize Libra is represented perfectly by Harald Nilssen a commission merchantScorpio is the Scorpion and the Eagle as well It soars above the earth and lives in its holes This strange sign is the Investigator of the Zodiac and is also its greatest conundrum secretive to its core yet suspicious of secrets in others; dark and unyielding; often cold yet deeply sexual Mysterious obsessive Scorpio The Luminaries is intimately connected to the Scorpion in its basic nature as a Mystery Novel and in its refusal to solve certain mysteries to keep them shrouded in ambiguity The Eagle dislikes having to explain itself Scorpio is represented by Joseph Pritchard a chemist and a perfectly executed character who is left almost entirely off of the page Perhaps Catton feared the perverse potential lurking within him and so curtailed her exploration of his depths I also felt the Scorpio influence upon this novel's villain the dark manipulative unknowable Francis CarverSagittarius the Archer shoots an arrow into the future his true place; Sagittarius the Centaur gallops uickly heedless of those too simple and slow to keep his pace Strong willed independent Sagittarius This sign's influence on The Luminaries is striking it has no patience for readers of the idiot class It makes scarce concessions to those longing for explanations or a simple plotline; it will give you the opportunity to come into its world and be surrounded enveloped and it will leave you behind if you are unable to keep up Sagittarius is well represented by Thomas Balfour a shipping agentCapricorn the Sea Goat still waters run deep was surely coined for this sign one whose stable and inhibited surface appearance belies the complicated ambitions within Patient resourceful Capricorn A courageous introvert a fastidious intellectual virile yet chilly dignified and aloof and rich with hidden depths The novel The Luminaries was born under the sign of Capricorn The novel's birth sign is represented perfectly by Aubert Gascoigne a justice's clerkAuarius the Water bearer abhors restrictions and eschews barriers seeking the enlightenment beyond traveling the stars without and within ever in search of wisdom Inventive rebellious Auarius A shallow reviewer of the novel would find little influence from the Water bearer as the book is a carefully constructed puzzle rather than an ingenious invention a mathematically mapped out pièce de résistance rather than a spontaneous improvisation But dig deeper and you shall find the sublime Auarian ruling an eerie and haunting love story one full of unexplainable visions and brazen leaps of faith Auarius is well represented by Sook Yongsheng a Chinese hatter and lover of opiumPisces the Fish Pisces the dreamer the last sign and the oldest Pisces yearns for escape in dreams in drugs in art in the dark damp spaces Elusive Pisces the sign of self undoing I had a Piscean experience when reading this novel It was my go to book for a certain period of time a little bit nearly every morning and every afternoon for almost 3 months I escaped into its depths it was my sweet sweet drug and I fear that I am suffering from withdrawal This lengthy review was an attempt to live in it again Alas now even this review is over Pisces is represented rather poorly by Cowell Devlin a chaplain


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