Cover of The Luminaries
Rated 3.78
10,377 ratings

The Luminaries

By: Eleanor Catton

Publisher: Hachette Trade

Imprint: Little, Brown

Format: Hardcover | ISBN: 9780316074315

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On Sale: | Pages: 848

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From the author of The Rehearsal comes a breathtaking feat of storytelling where everything is connected, but nothing is as it seems....It is 1866, and 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 met in secret to discuss a series of unsolved crimes. 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 fortunes that is as complex and exquisitely patterned as the night sky.Eleanor Catton was only 22 when she wrote The Rehearsal, which Adam Ross in the New York Times Book Review praised as "a wildly brilliant and precocious first novel" and Joshua Ferris called "a mesmerizing, labyrinthine, intricately patterned and astonishingly original novel." The Luminaries amply confirms that early promise, and secures Catton's reputation as one of the most dazzling and inventive young writers at work today.
"The Luminaries" is a fiercely historical murder mystery. Set during the 1860s Otago gold rush on New Zealand's South Island, it's also written in the verbose style of a 19th-century Victorian novel.... Ms. Catton deliberately plays with pacing and plotting. At first, the book is slow. Characters are mentioned without prior context, which causes confusion. When the narrative doubles back to their stories again, things suddenly make sense, and the pace picks up. "The Luminaries" transforms itself into an all-absorbing mystery as the plot thickens.... Even though it's a doorstop of a book, readers are rewarded for their diligence: this is a historical mystery unlike anything else. That said, it's unsettling that the novel concludes with an image of cozy romance.... Everything adds up in this novel, but the picture with which it concludes doesn't match the one I expected. But you know what? I have the feeling that this might be precisely the point.
—Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“The Luminaries,” Eleanor Catton's remarkable second novel — the winner of this year's Man Booker Prize — is a lot of things, and I mean a lot, but above all, perhaps, it is a love story, one that takes all of 826 pages to truly arrive. And it's not even a novel in the normal sense, but rather a mass confabulation that evaporates in front of us, an astrological divination waning like the moon, the first section 360 pages long (or are those degrees?), the last a mere sliver. But it's a sliver that delivers.... “The Luminaries” is a true achievement. Catton has built a lively parody of a 19th-century novel, and in so doing created a novel for the 21st, something utterly new. The pages fly, the great weight of the book shifting quickly from right hand to left, a world opening and closing in front of us, the human soul revealed in all its conflicted desperation. I mean glory. And as for the length, surely a book this good could never be too long.
—New York Times
Above all, Eleanor Catton needs to be praised for the fact that she is able to sustain interest and intrigue for 800+ pages. The writing will hark back to classic storytelling styles like Dickens and Austen. The location she has created seems to exist in a world of its own and comes across like a “Twin Peaks” sort of town, where each and every resident are not what they seem to be, and all have stories and backgrounds that are vital to the plot. THE LUMINARIES is an engaging novel that adventurous and patient readers will surely enjoy.
Chapter lengths are schematic, so they shorten as the book progresses. That means the first, “A Sphere Within a Sphere,” must last 361 pages; it consists mostly of two-person conversations. The slow pace requires Ms. Catton to work and rework the permutations of her cast of characters. At this early stage, each story is given endless reiteration and precious little amplification. This book is well past its midpoint — that is, at about Page 500 — before it truly begins to click. Its later, increasingly breathless sections have the suspenseful option of finally, at long last, putting all these pieces together.
—New York Times
Ms. Catton here tells a tale of intrigue, double-dealing and frontier justice in mid-19th-century New Zealand (her native country), and she does so with breathtaking observational precision and narrative complexity. It's as if a Victorian novelist—steeped in Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins, with their sense of character, plot, atmosphere and texture—had the benefit of the modernist masters, where the manner of recounting the story is as important as the story itself.... Ms. Catton appears to use the star-mapped sky as an occasional, even ironical, form of commentary, as well as an ornament to her already elaborate plot and mix of characters. In this marvelously inventive novel, nothing is quite what it first appears to be, but everything is illuminated.
—Wall Street Journal
...an 848-page dish so fresh that one continues to gorge, long past being crammed full of goodness. Nearly impossible to put down, it's easily the best novel I've read this year.... Call me Victorian for saying so, but Catton's supremely entertaining novel is a stirring reminder that what we were told when young really is true: Reading can make us better people.
—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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