Friday, January 17, 2014

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

Hardback:  832 pages
Genre: Literary Fiction
Publisher:  Granta Publications 2013

Source:  Tywyn Public Library, Wales.
First Sentence: The twelve men congregated in the smoking room of the Crown Hotel gave the impression of a party accidentally met.

Favourite Quote: “Love cannot be reduced to a catalogue of reasons why, and a catalogue of reasons cannot be put together into love.” 
Review Quote: The Luminaries is an impressive novel, captivating, intense and full of surprises. --Times Literary Supplement
Literary Awards:  Man Booker Prize Winner 2013
My Opinion: Complex but engrossing.

At over 800 pages, this was rather long and when I collected the book from the library I was rather shocked not having realised when I ordered this just how massive this novel was. As a friend commented it was a good thing thing I did not fall asleep reading it in bed, dropping this may well have been painful. Joking apart I was at first put off by the sheer size and reading the blurb the number of main characters. This was going to take some concentration, in fact it took me at least 100 pages before I really got into this and my early fears of not being able to read it all were banished as I began to understand the plot.
It is a great achievement for the 28 year old author that she should have won the 2013 Man Booker Prize against 150 other authors whose novels were also submitted this year.

Set in 1866 the story transports us to New Zealand during the gold rush. It is a world of banking, shipping, seances, drugs, sex and lots of mystery. As the novel opens Walter Moody newly arrived in the small gold rush town of Hokitika encounters  a group of twelve men gathered  in secrecy for a meeting in a hotel. A series of unexplained events in the township have drawn these men together, a wealthy man has vanished, a prostitute has tried to take her own life and a large fortune has been found in the home of a local drunkard. Walter Moody finds himself drawn into the group as they all take turns to relate their stories and gradually all is revealed as the mystery unfolds in a story of astral influences and fortunes, that is amazingly complex but still a pleasure to read.

As I mentioned earlier it took me a good few pages to feel properly involved in the storyline but once I had become so it was an engrossing tale, which I am glad I have read. In conclusion then a complex and engrossing novel which by the time you have finished the last page will have all fallen into place leaving the reader satisfied.

An interview with Eleanor Catton.

Author Profile

Eleanor Catton was born on September 24th 1985 in Canada while her father, a New Zealand graduate, was completing a doctorate at the University of Western Ontario. She lived in Yorkshire until the age of 13, before her family settled in Canterbury, New Zealand. She studied English at the University of Canterbury, and completed a Master's in Creative Writing at The Institute of Modern Letters, Victoria University of Wellington. She wrote her first novel, The Rehearsal, as her master's thesis.

The biographical information and photo used in this post are with thanks to the following websites, where you can also find more information about the author and her writing. 

Goodreads Author Profile  Eleanor Catton - Wikipedia  YouTube  Eleanor Catton on Twitter


  1. I don't know much about New Zealand and this sounds good but I don't know if I could tackle 800 pages. Quite a masterpiece.

    1. Ann, do not be put off by the length of this one. It is a masterpiece, just think of it as the length of two books. :)

  2. I bought this one last week, and I am daunted by the size but I really want to try reading it, I love New Zealand and have heard so many good things about this author's writing. Glad to read how much you liked it.

    1. Having read my review you already know that I was also rather daunted by this one at first, however once you overcome this issue, I think you will enjoy it Lindsay.

  3. Historical set books have never been up on my list but I am finding myself enjoying them so might give this one a go, thanks for sharing your thoughts. Well done to the author on winning too.


    1. A good idea to try a new genre Lainy, especially if you find it is one you are enjoying, our tastes change. :)

  4. Hi Linda,

    One of the real bonus features of blogging and accepting author review requests, has been the amount of overseas fiction I have read and the insight I have been afforded into alternative cultures and lifestyles.

    New Zealand is a place which I have never been lucky enough to explore in my fiction travels as yet, although hubbie and I did seriously consider emigrating there, not so long ago. However at over 800 pages, I'm not sure that this is a book for me, as I don't really enjoy 'chunkster' stories.

    This is a very constructive and even handed review, for what looks like a great story!


    1. New Zealand is high on my places I would love to visit list. Apart from the time factor in reading such a massive volume I actually enjoy 'big' books. I appreciate your comment that you found the review constructive, as I try to tempt prospective readers without giving anything away,

  5. This is a difficult book at first. It plays with with time, has a complex plot, a large cast of characters and multiple narrative threads. However, Catton handles them with the skill and confidence of a modern day Dickens and achieves an enormously satisfying read.
    Best Dr Alex Schnee Knee Doctor Cold Laser

  6. Thankyou for taking the time to comment, it is interesting to know the thoughts of others. However it would be appreciated if another time you did not post a promotional business link which I consider spam!

  7. Given article is very helpful and very useful for my admin, and pardon me permission to share articles here hopefully

    helped :

    Cara menyembuhkan ginjal bocor
    Obat batuk berdarah paling ampuh
    Obat eksim paling ampuh


I indulge my love of books with this blog and it makes it all worthwhile when you leave comments. I really am interested in what you think so do let me know. I have decided as the nature of this review blog makes for conversation in the comments, just to reply here and not individually, so please subscribe to comments or call back again to stay in the conversation. Thankyou for your continued support.