The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

The Luminaries

byEleanor Catton

Kobo ebook | September 3, 2013

Pricing and Purchase Info


Prices and offers may vary in store

Available for download

Not available in stores


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.

Title:The LuminariesFormat:Kobo ebookPublished:September 3, 2013Publisher:McClelland & StewartLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0771019130

ISBN - 13:9780771019135


Rated 1 out of 5 by from Technically brilliant but cold Starts out promisingly with an interesting plot device but then becomes weighed down by the constraints of the format (each chapter half as long as the previous). Not really an enjoyable read.
Date published: 2017-02-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Great Read This is one of the most impressive books I have read in a long time. Complex and filled with fascinating characters that held my interest, in part because time and place were also so vivid and real. I found it very enjoyable!
Date published: 2015-10-24
Rated 3 out of 5 by from An unusual story At 800 and some odd pages, this novel may seem daunting and frighten people off; but If you can push through the first section of this book, I found this to be quite an interesting historical mystery. I must admit though that I didn't entirely understand the star charts, and parts of the plot were hard to keep track of. But for the most part that fact didn't detract from my enjoyment of the book too badly. It starts with 12 men gathered in the crown hotel working to investigate the death of a man, an attempted suicide of a prostitute and the random disappearance of third man. It is interesting how it works backwards. The different parts of the story working together to fit into the puzzle. As someone who doesn't know a lot about the beautiful country of New Zealand, I found I learned a bit about the country's history. Particularly in regards to the gold rush and the city of Hokitika. Admittedly, I am still quite confused about how this book ended, I may have to reread this one in the future. But for what it is worth, it is a book I recommend. That is if you have the patience to push through a somewhat lengthy and overly descriptive first section. However, once you get past the first section the continued unraveling of the mysteries will keep you too drawn in to quit. My Rating: 3.5
Date published: 2015-09-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it! In the beginning of Eleanor Catton's book, I was finding the writing style confusing and a little ponderous. Who are these people? Why are they here together? How do they relate to eachother? Do they all play a part in the same story? Still, the book won the Man Booker Prize of 2013 - there has to be a reason! So, I kept going. I am so happy I did. This story, set in the New Zealand Gold Rush of the 1860's introduces us to a cast of characters who are not always what they seem. Who are the good guys? Who are the bad guys? The author tells her story from the viewpoint of many of the characters, each in turn. Each of them has experienced the same events. Each of them has a different way of looking at it. A young, wealthy, missing man; an opium addicted young prostitute almost dead of an apparent suicide attempt; a fortune in missing gold; a dead hermit in a cabin; a fortune telling con artist and her cruel seafaring husband; a Chinese opium dealer with revenge on his mind; a naive banker... so many more and Catton has woven and interwoven them into a wonderfully rich and seamless story. Catton's chapters start out lengthy and shorten as you go along so that at the end you feel as though you are hurtling to a conclusion with barely time to catch your breath! I found out on the dust jacket that The Luminaries is Catton's second book - I am resolved to read the first one!
Date published: 2015-08-19
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Hated it I asked for this as a gift as the story sounded intriguing and it won the Man Booker. Can't finish it. Tedious. So many characters and the author insists on describing the characters & thought processes of each one. It all goes on too long and makes it boring. I can't imagine why it won the awards it did. So much character development is not required for an involved story with so many characters. It should just move along to engage the reader and not bore them to death. There are many good books and not enough time to read them & I won't be wasting any more trying to finish this snoozer.
Date published: 2015-04-01
Rated 2 out of 5 by from The Luminaries This goes to great length to tell the tale. The characters are many and keeping them all straight a chore as well as the confusion of huge amounts of details. Reading this book is an undertaking and the reader can congratulate themselves on preservance.
Date published: 2014-12-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Long, but worth it! The Luminaries is long - but worth it! Catton's prose is beautiful, and the novel's structure is clever, mimicking the phases of the moon. I loved the hints of the supernatural and it kept me guessing about the truth until the end, where the pace really picked up. A great mystery about goldrushes and ghosts.
Date published: 2014-11-02
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 4 out of 5 by from The Luminaries I could not really get into it at first but once I did the characters had me completely hooked.
Date published: 2014-06-07
Rated 3 out of 5 by from The luminaries A very long book which dragged in the middle and took a long time to come to an end. I would give it a 7-10.
Date published: 2014-06-04
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Tedious and ponderous Although the characters prove interesting the story is filled with so many twists, turns and sidelines, that one is never sure of what is really going on. Challenging one to maintain interest even at the best of times, the novel gets lost in complexities of style that seem to be placed there more for the author's amusement than the reader's enjoyment.
Date published: 2014-05-21
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Tedious and ponderous I found it quite verbose and hard to stick with. The story would have been better if told more succinctly.
Date published: 2014-05-04
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 1 out of 5 by from Tedious and ponderous I did not like this book. I persevered through it because t was recommended by Kobo but I did not enjoy it.
Date published: 2014-03-18
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Not an easy read! A very confusing and difficult book to read, not much of a pleasure.
Date published: 2014-03-14
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 Not an easy read! A most incredible read , took a bit of getting into and really needs concentration but it is brilliantly written in a most unusual style -- I've just finished it and am looking forward to reading it a second time in a few months as I'm sure there will be small details I will pick up and visual descriptions that will be clearer the second time around .
Date published: 2014-02-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Not an easy read! Stunning book which is a heavy read but worth it. Catton's style and structure is sublime and the story transports you back to 19th Century Hokitika easily. Some Man Booker Prize winners aren't worth the effort, this one most definitely is.
Date published: 2014-02-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Not an easy read! This is a hard book to get into, but it's well worth the effort. Keeping track of all the characters takes some effort. Overall a great book and very well-written - easy to see why it won the Man Booker prize!
Date published: 2014-02-05
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not an easy read! To be honest I haven't finished it - not because of the length but because i keep forgetting that I'm reading it. It's fine to read it, but I'm just not engaged enough with the characters i suppose.
Date published: 2014-02-02
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Not an easy read! Beautiful prose. I was very impressed with the writing. A story that slowly unfolds and lures you in as you progress through the book. Not action-packed, but highly recommend.
Date published: 2014-01-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Not an easy read! A great novel. Very descriptive of New Zealand life in the gold-rush days. Very interesting characters.
Date published: 2014-01-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Not an easy read! An enjoyable read that keeps you interested until the end. Told through different perspectives the reader unpicks the tangled web - following threads and hints until the finale. An excellent insight into New Zealand goldrush
Date published: 2014-01-25
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Not an easy read! Ambitious, but falls pretty flat. Too many characters to keep up with who have nebulous connections to each other. The hint of supernatural connections between a couple of characters seems misplaced and clunky. I only finished reading it to see if it got any better when the ends were all drawn together. I was disappointed.
Date published: 2014-01-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Not an easy read! This was interesting to read, but very confusing to read on the KOBO. There were so many characters and the flashbacks seemed difficult to manage. Overall I enjoyed the book that was set in a time and location that I virtually knew nothing about.
Date published: 2014-01-24
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not an easy read! I found this book hard to get started on but now that I'm into it I just can't put it down. A real who done it type book!
Date published: 2014-01-24
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