The Luminaries

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The Luminaries

by Eleanor Catton

McClelland & Stewart | August 28, 2013 | Hardcover

The Luminaries is rated 3.2857 out of 5 by 7.

Winner of the 2013 Man Booker Prize and Governor General’s Award for Fiction, and set during the heady days of New Zealand’s Gold Rush, The Luminaries is a magnificent novel of love, lust, murder, and greed, in which three unsolved crimes link the fates and fortunes of twelve men. Dickens meets Deadwood in this internationally celebrated phenomenon.

In January 1866, young Walter Moody lands in a gold-mining frontier town on the west coast of New Zealand to make his fortune and forever leave behind a family scandal. On arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of twelve local men who have met in secret to investigate what links three crimes that occurred on a single day: the town’s wealthiest man has vanished. An enormous fortune has been discovered in the home of a luckless drunk. A prostitute has supposedly tried to end her life. But nothing is quite as it seems. As the men share their stories, what emerges is an intricate network of alliances and betrayals, secrets and lies, that is as exquisitely patterned as the night sky.

Part mystery, part fantastical love story, and intricately structured around the zodiac and the golden mean (each chapter is half the length of the preceding one), The Luminaries weaves together the changing fates and fortunes of an entire community, one where everyone has something to hide. Rich with character and event, it is a gripping page-turner – and a unique, atmospheric world – in which readers will gladly lose themselves. It confirms Eleanor Catton’s reputation as one of the most exciting and innovative novelists writing today.

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 848 pages, 9.26 × 6.32 × 1.95 in

Published: August 28, 2013

Publisher: McClelland & Stewart

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0771019106

ISBN - 13: 9780771019104

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Reviews

Rated 1 out of 5 by from Slow and an ongoing challenge While the story and characters are rich, the style of writing and incredibly slow pace made this book an extreme challenge for me. It is a book that I can easily put down...and I don't rush to pick it up again. I haven't finished it yet...and not sure I will ever go back to it.
Date published: 2014-07-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Historical Fiction on the Gold Rush in New Zealand The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton, winner of the 2013 Man Booker Prize and the 2013 Governor General’s Literary Awards, drew my attention because I usually enjoy historical fiction, and I have always been fascinated by the gold rush and how people would risk everything they have in the odd chance of striking it rich. The book starts when 12 men meet on 27 January 1866 in the smoking room of a hotel to discuss the extraordinary events that took place in the gold rush town of Hokitika, New Zealand. A man is dead, another has disappeared and a prostitute was found unconscious in the middle of the road. This mystery drives most of the book, along with the love story between Anna Wetherell, the prostitute, and Emery Staines, the rich man who disappeared. Eleanor Catton knows how to finish each chapter with a cliffhanger to build the suspense, and her descriptions are rich and evocative. In addition, the book’s structure is very original as chapters are arranged according to the position of the planets above 19th-century New Zealand, and the 12 main characters correspond to the 12 signs of the zodiac. I must say that I am not too familiar with astrology so this aspect of the book was lost on me, but I imagine people in the know would be intrigued by this. Overall, The Luminaries definitely deserved the awards it won for its originality and its engrossing story. This is a book I highly recommend. Please go to my blog, Cecile Sune - Bookobsessed, if you would like to read more reviews or discover fun facts about books and authors.
Date published: 2014-04-10
Rated 3 out of 5 by from The Luminaries This book put me in mind of an Agatha Christie novel—something like The Mousetrap perhaps—but without the clever twist ending. It has the same "people running in and out of doors" feeling, and the same layers of conspiracy and secrets kept or told when they shouldn't be. Set in the mid-19th Century gold rush in a wild part of New Zealand, the book details a murder and the intersecting involvement of a diverse cast of characters. Catton tells the story from multiple points of view with new plot details unveiled with each telling and new character insights revealed. The multiple points of view reinforces one of her main themes: we can never know the whole story or see the full picture. ". . . never underestimate how extraordinarily difficult it is to understand a situation from another person's point of view," she writes. The character Walter Moody says: "I am trying to decide between the whole truth, and nothing but the truth . . .. I am afraid my history is such that I can't manage both at once." Catton's goal, I believe, is to keep readers on their toes, always second-guessing the characters and what they are capable of. She creates a New Zealand town that is ". . . a perfect hive of contradictions," where characters both shine with gold and "muck and hazard," just like the goldfields that surround them. This book won its many awards because of this gift with character development and because of Catton's rich use of irony. For example, the governor of the gaol states, as he is exacting revenge: "Revenge . . . is an act of jealousy, not of justice. It is a selfish perversion of the law." Catton constructs her book around astrological charts and the phases of the moon, to the extent that the structure determines the telling of the story, rather than the story determining the telling of the story. I felt her structure did a disservice to her characters and the narrative. She uses "In which . . . " chapter headings, and by the end of the book, in order to stick to the structure she created for herself (not for the story), the chapter headings unfold more plot than the chapters do. Ineffectively, I might add. I expect her choice of structure wowed the prize juries, but to me it felt contrived, unnecessary and, worst of all, harmful to the story. I read an e-version, because I took with me on my vacation, and I didn't want to pack an 800+-page tome in my suitcase. This presented two problems for me. First, it is more difficult to flip back and refresh memories of past events and characters in an e-book, and the convoluted plotting of this book required some flipping back. Second, the dialogue was not properly laid out from time to time in my version, so I was confused more than once about who was speaking. If you plan on reading this book, I recommend paper. I've come to believe that book prize juries seek something your average reader doesn't want or need. A prize-winning book should entertain, inspire, and carry readers away. Readers should set the finished book down with a sigh of satisfaction. They should want to keep the book forever. They should want to read it again someday. I understand why this book received the prizes it did. The irony, the characters, the astrological chart/moon structure appealed to the artistic sentiments of the jurors. But I found the structure frustrating and the ending unsatisfying. I set the book down thinking, "Huh?" I don't need to keep the book, and I don't want to read it again. Catton has proven her ability to develop characters, create suspense and touch that perfect irony funnybone. I hope she writes her next book using all of those skills but without restricting the story to unnecessary confines.
Date published: 2014-03-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Much Congratulations to the Author! There are so many books with thin plots, character descriptions that don't go much further than eye-colour, unoriginal settings and navel-gazing narrators; this is not one of them. For that reason only alone, it's worth treating yourself to this read.  The new setting (New Zealand) was a refreshing twist on the favourite Victorian era. Because the setting is fresh, even if you've read Victorian on western materials before, you don't feel as if the same interesting historical facts about the age are on a literary recycle program.  Old-timey language gives you a feel for the time, yet the narration remains accessible.  There are a lot of characters in this book and I love their descriptions. Though there are bad guys and good guys, this accomplished author provides whimsical and original descriptions that are enjoyable to think over. Lastly, the plot is quit complex. With a huge host of characters, you get to view the mystery unfold from several viewpoints; and each character's actions help to evolve the over-arching story, even though each character is unaware of all elements of the big picture. By the end, it seemed that the mystery was on such a large scale, I was impressed that all the little details added up.  There are more articulate reviews available for this book, but it I had to throw in my 2 cents - it just kills me that such an accomplished novel is sitting at a 3 star average on Chapter's site. 
Date published: 2014-02-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I have never seen better writing... I purchased this book after a friend purchased it and seeing it all over the Chapters Indigo site. In all honesty, I have not finished it yet as it is quite a large piece of literature. I'm just over halfway through now, and I can say this without a doubt; this is one of the most beautifully written novels I have ever purchased (which is obviously why Catton won the 2013 Man Booker Prize). There is so much detail without the detail being distracting or breaking up the story. The movement between the lives of the characters flows so easily and connects flawlessly. I never have to flip back through pages because I've missed something. The story is absolutely captivating and Catton has a way of using older dialect in a way that can be easily understood by today's audience. It is beautiful, mysterious, comical and thought-provoking. The characters are all very interesting. They have a great deal of depth, and I find myself liking each character for different reasons, even though they all have some qualities that are not so likeable. At the present moment, I give The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton 5 stars. I can't imagine the ending will change my opinion either.
Date published: 2014-01-20
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Technically brilliant, but a dreadful read I gave up on this book at page 116.  It felt like such work to read this.  I forced myself to continue reading just one more page each day.  The story didn't captivate me, despite my love of New Zealand as a setting. While I appreciate the technical beauty of this work: 360 pages for the first section, 180 for the 2nd, 90 for the 3rd... and how that follows the cycles of the moon, and how each of the 12 men represent a sign of the horoscope...   It also explains why a lot of the first section felt like it should have been cut out, better edited.  (It feels like filler) Also, once the second man started to tell his version of the story, I had a déjà vue moment:  Arrested Development's 4th season where each person tells their version of the same story.  Ugh... Bravo to her for winning the Man Booker Prize, but this just didn't feel worth the effort to continue.
Date published: 2014-01-08
Rated 3 out of 5 by from I don't get it! There are so many great books by people who actually live in Canada. I don't understand why this won the GG (or the Mann Booker either). I tried to read this book, a review said it got interesting by page 350 and so I slogged on and got to page 500 but I couldn't take it any more. I found the book boring, it had too many characters and it was not worth wasting any more time on.
Date published: 2013-11-13

– More About This Product –

The Luminaries

by Eleanor Catton

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 848 pages, 9.26 × 6.32 × 1.95 in

Published: August 28, 2013

Publisher: McClelland & Stewart

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0771019106

ISBN - 13: 9780771019104

From the Publisher

Winner of the 2013 Man Booker Prize and Governor General’s Award for Fiction, and set during the heady days of New Zealand’s Gold Rush, The Luminaries is a magnificent novel of love, lust, murder, and greed, in which three unsolved crimes link the fates and fortunes of twelve men. Dickens meets Deadwood in this internationally celebrated phenomenon.

In January 1866, young Walter Moody lands in a gold-mining frontier town on the west coast of New Zealand to make his fortune and forever leave behind a family scandal. On arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of twelve local men who have met in secret to investigate what links three crimes that occurred on a single day: the town’s wealthiest man has vanished. An enormous fortune has been discovered in the home of a luckless drunk. A prostitute has supposedly tried to end her life. But nothing is quite as it seems. As the men share their stories, what emerges is an intricate network of alliances and betrayals, secrets and lies, that is as exquisitely patterned as the night sky.

Part mystery, part fantastical love story, and intricately structured around the zodiac and the golden mean (each chapter is half the length of the preceding one), The Luminaries weaves together the changing fates and fortunes of an entire community, one where everyone has something to hide. Rich with character and event, it is a gripping page-turner – and a unique, atmospheric world – in which readers will gladly lose themselves. It confirms Eleanor Catton’s reputation as one of the most exciting and innovative novelists writing today.

About the Author

ELEANOR CATTON was born in 1985 in London, Ontario, and raised in New Zealand. Her internationially celebrated first novel, The Rehearsal, won the Amazon.ca First Novel Award, the Betty Trask Award, and the NZ Society of Authors'' Best First Book Award, was a finalist for the Guardian First Book Award and the Dylan Thomas Writers Prize, and longlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the Orange Prize. She holds an MFA from the prestigious Iowa Writers'' Workshop, where she was also an adjunct professor. She currently lives in Auckland, New Zealand.

Editorial Reviews

“ The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton is an entire narrative universe with its own mysterious cosmology. This exhilarating feat of literary design dazzles with masterful storytelling. Each character is a planet – complex and brilliantly revealed. Precise sensual prose illuminates greed, fear, jealousy, longing – all that it means to be human.” —Jury citation,  Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction   “A magnificent novel: awesome in its structural complexity; addictive in its story-telling; and magical in its conjuring of a world of greed and gold.” —Robert Macfarlane, the Man Booker Prize Chair of Judges “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 Luminaires 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 t
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