Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

The Luminaries

Rate this book
It 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 met 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 fortunes that is as complex and exquisitely 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-turner.

848 pages, Hardcover

First published August 24, 2013

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Eleanor Catton

11 books1,884 followers
Eleanor Catton (born 1985) is a New Zealand author. Catton was born 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.Eleanor Catton holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she also held an adjunct professorship, and an MA in fiction from the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University of Wellington. Currently she teaches creative writing at the Manukau Institute of Technology.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
22,024 (27%)
4 stars
28,507 (36%)
3 stars
17,658 (22%)
2 stars
6,771 (8%)
1 star
3,763 (4%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 9,149 reviews
Profile Image for Rebecca.
3,677 reviews2,666 followers
February 15, 2020
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 Passengers.

And 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 heart.

Lest I seem unfair, here are some more 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 subsequent 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-earned.

If I had to list a few minor quibbles, I’d mention that some of the more 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 meetings.

My main problem, however, is with the opacity of the astrology angle. The novel’s supposed uniqueness 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. Furthermore, Catton’s commitment to portraying a full year’s astrological changes requires looping back to revisit the events of 1865-6 for almost the full last quarter 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 technique 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 good.

It’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 Four).

Apart 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 rest.

In 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 quarter of the page count feels superfluous, there’s something ever so slightly off.

I 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.
Profile Image for Luke.
21 reviews72 followers
December 26, 2013
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.

To 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 writer.

For 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 squirls of paint, thoughtfully applied, but ultimately a poor picture to fill a mind with interest. The Luminaries is an average story.

It 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 perhaps!

So I found The Luminairies a master writer's/crtitic'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 me.

The 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.

Profile Image for Jennifer (formerly Eccentric Muse).
468 reviews1,000 followers
July 27, 2016
I'm abandoning this book, with regret for having read it against my better judgement, without more 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 warned!

1. 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 judge....

I 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 that.

2. 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 more 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 Booker.

3. Man Booker. FFS.

4. This book has two fatal flaws for me: 1) fussy structure over character; 2) metaphor gone wild.

5. Although it's not really metaphor gone wild; more like metaphor that is so subtle as to be irrelevant to most readers...unless they know astrology well enough that they can pick up what she's doing using astrological concepts to illuminate character behaviour/plot. I certainly do not, and did not.

6. I think astrology is fun, but dumb (here, in both senses).

7. 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 stars.

9. 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 far.

10. 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. No.

12. I'm increasingly factoring opportunity costs into the arithmetic I do to determine when/if 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?

Profile Image for Adina .
891 reviews3,554 followers
April 26, 2023
E-book and audiobook superbly narrated by Mark Meadows. Winner of the Booker prize 2013.

It’s been more than 1 month since I finished this novel and I still haven’t managed to write a review. I will do my best to add a few words.

I suppose all I need to write is that I miss the characters and I am sorry there isn’t more of this book. The fact that I feel this after 800 + pages says enough about how much I liked spending time in the Wild Wild NZ.

In 1866, young Walter Moody lands in Hokitika to find his fortune on the Otago goldfields. During his 1st night at his lodging, he interrupts a strange gathering of 12 very different individuals. The men take him into confidence and begin to recount some strange but interconnected events, which involve the death of a hermit, the disappearance of very rich young man and the almost fatal overdose of a prostitute. Each character holds a piece of the puzzle and they decide to exchange information in order to make sense of the mysterious events that disrupted their lives in the recent past.

The novel is a perfectly researched and structured, astrology infused, historical mystery. The characters are diverse and well rounded, the writing is lush and appropriate to the times the novel portraits. I always appreciate a good historical mystery and The Luminaries is one of the finest examples. I was never bored even though the novel is long and complex. Is it Booker prize worthy? I would say yes.

I cannot finish without praising the narrator of the audiobook. Mark Meadows gave life to the characters and masterfully managed to differentiate them by using with different accents and voices. I loved his narration so much that I immediately listened to another book narrated by him.
Profile Image for Jaidee.
607 reviews1,206 followers
June 2, 2019
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 quiz to see if you are a potential reader of this most amazing tome.

1. 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 more of these questions then what are you waiting for...giddyup to your nearest bookstore or library and pick this up as it will take you many hours to finish.

On a more serious note- this book is absolutely exquisite and perfect in every way. Ms. Catton at the age of 28 has written a novel that will stand the test of time.

This book reminded me of a complex mandala ....broad at the outside and like a whirlpool draws you in quicker and quicker 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 now.

Ms. Catton...thanks so darn much...I'm mighty obliged ma'am :)
Profile Image for switterbug (Betsey).
845 reviews810 followers
September 27, 2023
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 concerns.

I 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 more between Dunedin and Hokitika to titillate the adventurous reader.

Primarily, 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 townspeople.

The 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 progresses.

"But onward also rolls the outer sphere--the boundless present, which contains the bounded past."

Take note of the cast list at the beginning, which is quite 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 story.

Catton 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 antiquated, there is a fresh whiff of nuanced canniness, a knowing Catton who uncorks the delectable Victorian past by looking at it from the postmodern future.

You will either be intoxicated by this big brawl of a book, or weighed down in its heft. If you are looking for something more 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 feathers.

The 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 dust.

"But 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 still...We now look outward...we see the world as we wish to perfect it, and we imagine dwelling there."
Profile Image for Mohammed Arabey.
709 reviews5,736 followers
September 20, 2017

اطول رواية "832 صفحة" تحصل علي جائزة بوكر (في اكتوبر 2013) ومؤلفتها اصغر حاصلة علي الجائزة (إليانور كاتون,28سنة) في تاني تجربة روائية لها

ولهذا استحقت البوكر Masterpiece of Art الرواية قطعة فنية متميزة
وتستحق فعلا محاولة كتابة تقيم كامل في أطول مراجعة لي (في 2014) لتلك التجربة المتميزة كي تضح الصورة

بالرغم من إنها تبدو لك كرواية "بوليسية" في المقام الاول، تعتمد علي عالم الفلك والابراج والتنجيم وقراءة الطالع
وبالرغم من حجمها المرهق واهتمام المؤلفة بتفاصيل دقيقة لكل شخصية من الشخصيات العديدة وحتي تاريخها وماضيها كل هذا في مدينة نيوزيلاندية صغيرة بأواخر القرن التاسع عشر أثناء حمي التنقيب علي الذهب

إلا انك عندما تنتهي من الرواية تكتشف أن لايوجد شئ صار كما كان يبدو لك في البداية
فستجد الرواية في المقام الأول تحمل بين طياتها عدالة شعرية وجانب رومانسي حقيقي وجذاب في ظل كل القسوة في عالم منقبي الذهب الفظ الخشن ، الخيانة ، الابتزاز ، القتل ، الخداع ، الافيون ، الانتقام

وبلغة قوية جدا ومتميزة "كلاسيكية" ، ومرهق لغير المعتادين علي الادب الكلاسيكي كحالي ومفردات اللغة الانجليزية القوية
والاهم الاسلوب المهذب المحترم، فلا يوجد الفاظ خارجة او اوصاف قبيحة ، أو حتي جنس صريح كما يلجأ المؤلفين للحصول علي بوكر او جائزة.. وبالرغم من وجود عاهرة في الاحداث، خيانة زوجية وغيرة إلا ان الرواية احتفظت بالجانب الاخلاقي بقوة ، وكما قلت، العدالة

ولتكتمل لك الصورة تجد انك بحاجة لان تري دورة الرواية كاملة
الصورة الكاملة

الدورة الفلكية لرواية مقسمة ببراعة

اثني عشر شخصية رئيسية تمثل الابراج ، و 7 شخصيات أخري تمثل الكواكب والشمس والقمر
ستستمتع بمعرفه مصائر الشخصيات كلهم والاهم دورة القمر والشمس .. الشمس التي تمد القمر بالنور ، وحركه القمر من ظهور وخسوف والذي يقابله الصعود والهبوط في مصائر الشخصيات (الأبراج) تلك العلاقة الفلكية الغريبة الهندسية

ولنقيم الرواية بتفصيل اكثر نبدأ بــ

---"الفصل الاول 27 يناير 1866"---
يدخل والتر مودي الي حجره التدخين بفندق بهوكيتيكا "نيوزيلاندا" في فتره التنقيب عن الذهب..فقد وصل لتوه للمدينه علي متن سفينه شاهد فيها شيئا لا يصدقه ولاحتي يستوعبه ,ولكنه يريد مكان هادئ فحسب ليستريح من رحلته والامطار الغزيره وذلك الحدث الغريب الذي شهده في السفينه

وليجد نفسه في حجره التدخين اثني عشر رجلا متباينين في الاعمار,الطبقه الاجتماعيه وحتي الاصول والجنسيات
يشعر انهم مجتمعين في امر ما ولكن كلهم يتجاهلونه ويتظاهرون بانهم ليسوا في اجتماع, ماعدا واحدا, يبدأ في أن يحاوره
وبالحديث بينهما يعرف مودي سر الاجتماع الغامض

في 14 يناير 1866,من اسبوعين, عثر علي ناسك وحيد مقتولا في كوخه..وتم اكتشاف ثروه ذهبيه بكوخه,وبعد نقل الملكيه بالبيع عن طريق بنك المدينه جائت منذ يومين من بداية الاحداث ارملته كمفاجأه
فلا احد يعرف ان لـكروسبي ويلز زوجه من الاساس لتقلب كل شئ رأسا علي عقب وتوقف عمليه البيع

وهذا ليس كل شئ, في نفس الليله تم العثور علي احد "العاهرات" أنـا ويزيريل في حاله اغماء واشتباه في محاولتها الانتحار
وتنفي بقوه انها حاولت الانتحار وتبدأ في السؤال عن الشاب أيميري ستاينس والذي كان معها قبل ان تفقد وعيها,ولكن لايدري اي احد في المدينه اين ذهب ذلك الشاب, الذي صعد نجمه في فتره قصيره بمجرد وصوله للمدينه منذ اقل من عام ليصير احد اغنياء المدينه بالرغم من عمره الصغير..فقط اختفي بدون مقدمات بنفس تلك الليلة الغريبة

وهذا ليس ابدا بكل شئ
الاثني عشر رجلا..وسبع شخصيات الاخري لم تأتي يربط بينهم وبين البعض علاقات بها الكثير من الغموض والاسرار, خيانه, انتحال شخصيه,ابتزاز,انتقام وعلاقات اخري متشابكه..كلهم لهم علاقه او استفاده من وفاه الناسك, او كانوا علي علاقه مع العاهره او كانوا شركاء لشاب الثري المختفي

كل هذا يتعرف عليه والتر مودي عن احداث ذلك اليوم "27 يناير" والتي كشفت ذلك التشابك بين الاثني عشر رجلا والعلاقات بينهم والتي اكتشفوها خلال احداث هذا اليوم فقط..سواء علاقتهم ببعضهم البعض او الاشخاص السبع الاخرين الذين لم يكونوا بالاجتماع السري

في هذا الفصل"دائره داخل دائره" هو الاطول والاكبر "360 صفحه"تعريف بكل الابطال تقريبا..ولكنك لا تصل ابدا للحقيقه الكامله
والتر مودي الشاب الذي يمثل "العقل/الحكمه" يتعرف علي الشخصيات كلها من خلال حكايتهم عن ذلك اليوم الحافل والذي اكتشف فيه كل واحد منهم انه مرتبط بشكل او بأخر في قضيه وفاه الناسك او في الثروه المكتشفه في بيته..والتي أدي وصول أرملته الي قلب كل شئ رأسا علي عقب

ستشعر ان وصف الشخصيات وخلفياتها ضخم جدا ولا انكر اني شعرت بكثير من الملل وقتها فعلا خاصا ان المؤلفه تستخدم لغه انجليزيه قويه جدا

افتكرت كتير روايه جي كي رلينج بسبب كثره الشخصيات وتشابك العلاقات بينهم
لكن فكره ان المؤلفه عامله جدول الشخصيات ده ساعد كتير جدا وايضا تقديمها للشخصيات جاء بالتدريج فلن تشعر فعلا باي "لخبطه" لان كل فصل مرتبط بشخصيتين
The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

ولكي تستمتع بالروايه بحق,انقل جدول اسماء الابطال في البدايه

*****الشخصيات الاثني عشر الاولي - الابراج -******

♈ – Aries الحمل Te Rau Tauwhare تي رو تاواري - منقب احجار محلي
♉ – Taurus برج Charlie Frost شارلي فروست - موظف بالبنك
♊ – Gemini الجوزاء Benjamin Löwenthal بنجامين لونيثال - صحفي
♋ – Cancer السرطان Edgar Clinch ايدجار كلينش - صاحب فندق
♌ – Leo الاسد Dick Mannering ديك مانيرينج - صاحب مناجم ذهب
♍ – Virgo العذراء Quee Long كيو لونج - صائغ ذهب صيني
♎ – Libra الميزان Harald Nilssen هارولد نيلسين - تاجر عموله
♏ – Scorpio العقرب Joseph Pritchard جوزيف بريتشارد - صيدلي
♐ – Sagittarius القوس Thomas Balfour توماس بلفور - وكيل شحن
♑ – Capricorn الجدي Aubert Gascoigne اوبري جاسكوين - كاتب قضاء
♒ – Aquarius الدلو Sook Yongsheng سوك يونجشنج-صانع قبعات
♓ – Pisces الحوت Cowell Devlin كويل ديفلين - قس

*****الشخصيات السبع الثانيه - الكواكب-*****

عرفتهم المؤلفه في الصفحه الاولي بتأثيراتهم ولكننا هنا نزيد عليهم اسماء الكواكب وايضا تم ذكرهم بنفس الترتيب

☿ - Mercury عطارد Walter Moody والتر مودي - المنطق
♀ - Venus الزهره Lydia (Wells) Carver ليديا ويلز "كارفر" - الرغبه
♂ - Mars المريخ Francis Carver فرانسيس كارفر - القوه
♃ - Jupiter المشتري Alistair Lauderback اليستاير لاديرباك - السلطه
♄ - Saturn زحل George Shepard جورج شيبارد - القيود
☉ - Sun الشمس Anna Wetherell أنـا ويذريل - بعيده ,كانت قريبه
☽ - Moon القمر Emery Staines ايميري ستاينس - قريب,كان بعيد

والشخصيه الاخيره هي اليابسه او الارض
Crosbie Wells كروسبي ويلز - المتوفي في اول الروايه

ليه بقي بقول تنقل الرموز والابراج وتخليها امامك وقت القراءه؟
او روايه "النجوم اللامعه" هيكلها معتمد علي الفلك The Luminaries
فكل فصل من الفصول الاثني عشر تبدأ بخريطه فلكيه كالتي في الصوره توضح علاقات الشخصيات "الابراج"بالشخصيات الاخري "الكواكب" و كل فصل بينقسم لاجزاء "الاول 12,الثاني 11,الثالث 10,الرابع 9 وهكذا.." وكل جزء مرتبط بظاهره فلكيه بتحصل في وقت الاحداث

"مثلا الجزء الاول عطارد في برج القوس .. في الاحداث مودي "عطارد"بيجذب توماس بلفور "برج القوس" في انه يحكي احداث اليوم وسبب لقاء الاثني عشر رجلا"
وكل جزء بعد عنوانه -الفلكي- تجد سطرين او ثلاث مختصر عن الفصل ..علي غرار "حظك اليوم" فمثلا يبدأ فصل بالعباره التاليه
بزوغ منتصف االليل علي برج العقرب
وفيه الصيدلي يذهب للبحث حول الافيون , ونقابل أنـا ويذريل أخيرا ,بريتشارد ينفذ صبره , وتنطلق طلقتا رصاص

القمر في برج الثور , محاق
وفيه تشارلي فروست يكتشف شيئا,ديك مانيرنج يحضر مسدسه, ونحن نرتحل في مغامره عبر النهر لاراضي كانيري,

ونصل لـ
---"الفصل الثاني 18 فبراير 1866"---
وفيه تقوم ليديا ويلز الارمله بعقد جلسه تحضير الارواح التي زعمت في الفصل الماضي عقدها في ذلك الشهر الذي بدون قمر..فسنعرف ان الارمله مهووسه بخرائظ الفلك والنجوم والابراج,فهي تقوم بكشف الحظ لمنقبي الذهب والباحثين عن الثروات وقررت ان تقوم بتلك الجلسه لافتتاح مشروعها في المدينه التي نويت ان تستقر بها بعد موت زوجها

الروح التي اختارتها لتقوم بجلسه تحضير الارواح هي روح ايميري ستاينس , الشاب الثري المفقود ولا يعرف اي احد مصيره..فهل تنجح؟

مره اخري يتشابك الابطال وحقائق جديده يتم اكتشافها,روابط وتحالفات جديده تنعقد, وتحالفات اخري تنك��ر
وذلك كله مرسوم في خريطه النجوم
الجميع جاء الحفل لمعرفه الحقيقه ولمقابله ايمري ستاتين, الثري الشاب المفقود أو أنــا ويزريل , العاهره التائبه

مره اخري يتجمع الابطال في مكان واحد ,العدد اقل ولكن مازالت المؤلفه تمسك بخيوط القصه ببراعه
وبالرغم من ان الاكتشاف الاكبر يقع في وسط احداث هذا الفصل..الا ان نهايه الفصل تجعلك منتظرا اكثر لـ

---"الفصل الثالث 20 مـارس 1866"---
هنا يجهز سوك لانتقامه, لا يعلم ان هناك من يسعي خلفه هو شخصيا لماض ما..وهذا الفصل سيشهد اخيرا ظهور القمر,بعد ان كان الشهر الماضي شهرا بدون قمر

مطارده, تشابك, صراع,كشف حقائق ... ظهور القمر وتلاقيه اخيرا بالشمس
لسبب ما تشعر ان هذا الفصل يحتوي علي شئ من النهايه بالنسبه لك خاصا وانه يبدو ك
ولكن مازال هناك الكثير من الحقائق الغير كامله...والعداله لم تتحقق بعد

وهنا يأتي الفصل الاخير في الاحداث الحاليه
---"الفصل الرابع 27 ابريل 1866"---
جنبا الي جنب مع يوم
---"الفصل الرابع 27 ابريل 1865"---
وهو من اقوي الفصول بالنسبه لي
المحاكمه الكبري, محاكمه الشمس والقمر او القمر والشمس

لن احرق لك الاحداث به ولكن أعتقد انه يجب ان اشيد فعلا ببراعه المؤلفه في رسم المحاكمه وتحويل الاحداث لتحقيق نهايه ممتازه كهذه

نهايه الاحداث ومعرفه مصائر الشخصيات وايضاح الصوره الكامله
الميزه هنا ان الجزء "الخيالي" الخاص بالنجوم تم تفسيره في المحاكمه بطريقه منطقيه وبعيده عن الخيال, كشيئا ما من أسلوب روايه "حياه باي" -الحاصله هي الاخري علي بوكر
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
وهو امر مناسب جدا لتوضيح جزء من الاحداث لمن لايرغب في الخيال
لتكون الروايه متكامله لك سواء واقعيه او خياليه

ومزجت المؤلفه بين نهايه الاحداث وبدايتها بالنسبه لاهم شخصيتين
نقطه البدايه في 27 ابريل العام الماضي للاحداث الحاليه
وتلاقي الشمس الذي كان قمرا,والقمر الذي كان شمسا
وسأدعك تكتشف الرمزيه بنفسك وكيف تحولت الاحداث وتم قلبها رأسا علي عقب
عن طريق ذلك الفصل,المحاكمه التي ادارها مودي...باجزاء من الحقيقه

واعجبني جدا ذلك السطر في النهايه
said Paddy Ryan. ‘Give us a tale, and spin it out, so we forget about our feet, and we don’t notice that we’re walking.’

Moody was silent for a time, wondering how to begin. ‘I am trying to decide between the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,’ he said presently. ‘I am afraid my history is such that I can’t manage both at once.’

فعلا مودي عرف الحقيقه الكامله, ولا شئ غير الحقيقه..وكل الابطال تقريبا عرفوا اجزاء من الحقيقه لان الحقيقه الكامله صعب استيعابها

ولذلك فالميزه هنا ان بهذا الفصل الاخير تبدأ في معرفه بدايه الاحداث في العام الماضي عن طريق الفلاش باك والذي يستمر علي مدار الفصول من الخامس الي الثاني عشر
و ستلاحظ تناقص اكثر في عدد صفحات الفصول
فالفصل الاول 360 صفحه - الفصل الثاني 160 صفحه - الفصل الثالث 104 صفحه
الفصل الرابع 96 صفحه - الفصل الخامس 40 صفحه - الفصل السادس 26 صفحه
الفصل السابع 14 صفحه - الفصل الثامن 10 صفحات و التاسع والعاشر 6 صفحات
الفصل الحادي عشر 4 صفحات فقط..والفصل الاخير صفحتان فقط
وهذا لتحاكي حركه القمر, وحتي ان لم افهمها جيدا الا ان البناء مناسب جدا لتيمه الحركه الفلكيه للقمر
وعاما الفصول من الخامس الي الثاني عشر لا تحتاج الكثير من الصفحات لان احداثها كلها فلاش باك لتكشف لك الحقيقه الكامله
حيث ينتهي الاخير بيوم "14 يناير 1886" الذي به الاحداث التي بسببها تجمع الاثني عشر رجلا في اول فصل "27 يناير 1886" ودخل عليهم والتر مودي...ليعرف كل شئ..الذي عن طريقه ينهي الاحداث ايضا


شخصيه والتر مودي "برج عطارد - الحكمه" من اجمل شخصيات الروايه,فهو المحايد الذي أتي لهوكيتيكا لبدايه جديده, مثله مثل اهم ابطال الروايه..ودار في فلكها

برعت المؤلفه في رسم افلاك الشخصيات جميعهم, وروح مدينه هوكيتيكا..وكما شرحها احد المواطنين الاصليين بالمدينه الذي -كحالي- انجليزيته ضعيفه قام برسمها كدائره تبدأ من نقطه وتنتهي في نفس النقطه
في ذلك المشهد في بدايه الروايه بين توماس بلفور عندما سأل تي رو تاواري عن معني اسم المدينه التي تدور بها كل الاحداث
At last Tauwhare lifted his finger and described a circle in the air. When his fingertip returned to the place from which he had begun, he jabbed his finger, sharply, to mark the place of return.

But one cannot mark a place upon a circle,he thought: to mark a place upon a circle is to break it, so that it is not a circle any longer.

‘Understand it like this,’ he said, regretting that he had to speak the words in English, and approximate the noun. ‘Around. And then back again, beginning.’

ومثل المدينه مثل الروايه في بناءها , بعد ان انهيت اخر صفحاتها شعرت بالحاجه لاستكمالها عن طريق اعاده قراءه الفصل الاول مره اخري الي الرابع, وبالفعل هذا جعلني استمتع اكثر ببناءها الغريب المتميز
وحبكتها العبقريه

روايه فعلا تستحق البوكر , والقراءه,والاستمتاع بها

يجب ايضا ان انوه اني عرفت الروايه عن طريق الصدفه من مقال بجريده الاهرام صفحه الادب الثلاثاء 29 اكتوبر 2013 للاستاذه "هبه عبد الستار" والذي شوقني جدا للروايه
رابط المقال
"ملحوظه: ليس للروايه ترجمه حتي الان"

محمد العربي
من 28 يناير 2014
الي 26 فبراير 2014
"دوره قمريه كامله"
والاعاده الي 2 مارس 2014

PS: الريفيو القديم في الاسبويلر,لكن تقريبا تم استخدامه بالكامل في الريفيو النهائي
Profile Image for Antonomasia.
978 reviews1,222 followers
August 27, 2013
[4.5] 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" (p.31) - not a mystery/ adventure involving gold prospectors, prostitutes, drug addiction and frontier-town bigwigs. One likely to appeal to quite a number of readers who may be put off by the first impression of yet another Austen/Dickens 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 A.S. 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 questionable backgrounds than may have been the case in the real mid nineteenth century. Characters of all origins are treated with equal 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 quite possible to imagine if only one could put the words together a bit more 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 difficult,and 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 invention.
2) Each of its 12 parts has a word count exactly half that of its predecessor.
3) 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 aspects.)

Towards 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 on.

The 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: e.g. a spendthrift dandy ... who's Scandinavian.) Most have a cartoonish yet complex quality 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 oblique 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 more than I'd like about astrology and b) I think I read quite closely I was all the more impressed with Catton's characterisation for not having been able to help making it ridiculously obvious as many authors would have.

A 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 4.5.) The quieter 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 novels.

Whilst 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 unquestioningly 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 26.

This 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 helped).

I 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 more conventionally-structured, polished novel of a quarter of its length. Regardless, it was enormous fun, very readable and ever so clever.
Profile Image for Hannah Greendale.
701 reviews3,355 followers
April 8, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Maureen Jansen.
42 reviews11 followers
September 23, 2013
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 quarter 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 mystery/detective elements in this novel: just not my cup of tea. I was more suited as a reader to Emily Perkins' The Forrests, another long and challenging NZ novel but more character-based.
Profile Image for Fionnuala.
792 reviews
August 6, 2020
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 rich.

I 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 wanes.

There 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 them!

Speaking 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...
Profile Image for mark monday.
1,678 reviews5,255 followers
November 4, 2018
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 hunter.

Taurus 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 Frost.

Gemini 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 development.

Cancer 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 Clinch.

Leo 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 magnate.

Virgo 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 Quee 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 quest for revenge end in a limp little fizzle, off of the page. I raged (a bit) at the injustice of it all.

Libra 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 equal 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. Exquisite 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 merchant.

Scorpio 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 Carver.

Sagittarius the Archer shoots an arrow into the future, his true place; Sagittarius the Centaur gallops quickly, 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 agent.

Capricorn 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 clerk.

Aquarius 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 Aquarius! 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 Aquarian ruling an eerie and haunting love story, one full of unexplainable visions and brazen leaps of faith. Aquarius is well-represented by Sook Yongsheng, a Chinese hatter and lover of opium.

Pisces 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.
Profile Image for Guille.
785 reviews1,753 followers
February 13, 2022

Casi abandono el libro a las primeras de cambio. Tenía por delante 800 páginas de una narración clásica de misterios, secretos y enredos, bastante alejada de lo que vienen siendo mis gustos. Sin embargo, aguanté el tirón y al final resultó ser una lectura entretenida. Y esto es lo mejor que puedo decir de la novela.

En efecto, los inicios fueron duros. Me estaba enfrentando a lo que parecía ser una enrevesada y muy larga introducción de una partida de Cluedo. La autora necesita las 360 páginas del primer capítulo para plantear la trama y presentarnos a los 20 personajes que componen el elenco de la novela, cada uno con su historia personal a cuestas y con su particular relación con ese asunto que, para su tratamiento urgente, reúne a doce de estos personajes en un hotel de una emergente ciudad minera de la Nueva Zelanda de finales del siglo XIX.

A medida que avanzamos sabremos de una puta suicida que puede que no sea suicida y que parece que ya no será puta; de un baúl con documentos trascendentales que no se encuentra; de un rico minero desaparecido; de un pagaré no firmado que se oculta; de un disparo a bocajarro que no tiene los efectos habituales; de un muerto, con el pecho ensangrentado, que se levanta y grita; de una mina que deja de producir oro de un día para otro; de un tesoro que va y viene; de un muerto que es descubierto en su solitaria cabaña y que deja una herencia sorprendente, una viuda de la que nada se sabía, que se creía mujer de otro y que es el nexo que une de una forma u otra a todos los personajes.

Todos estos misterios se irán desvelando, más o menos, en el resto de los capítulos, once, cuyas dimensiones van disminuyendo paulatinamente hasta la página y media que compone el último de ellos, y que, según parece, deben guardar, así como los doce personajes de la reunión, alguna relación con los signos del zodiaco. A mí no me pregunten; quizás en estas relaciones con el zodiaco esté el meollo de todo el relato porque fuera de ellas no hay más que una novela de aventuras un tanto pretenciosa.

¿Qué fue lo que hizo que aguantara el tirón? Una mezcla de cosas.

La escritora tiene oficio y su estilo me facilitaba mucho la lectura, los personajes me fueron intrigando y los misterios acabaron por engancharme. Por otro lado, a menudo me generaba sensaciones similares a las que experimenté con la lectura de El plantador de tabaco, otro gran tocho que, como esta, reivindica el gusto por la trama, el puro placer de narrar y leer una historia llena de personajes y peripecias, homenajeando a la novela de otra época. También comparten las dos el escenario de un mundo en ciernes, con esas luchas de poder donde reina la codicia, la ambición y la inclemencia propias de una sociedad que se está formando con hombres y mujeres en busca de fortuna o desahuciados y a menudo huidos o expulsados de otros sitios y entre los que se establece esos conflictos entre el nuevo orden que se va imponiendo al desorden inicial o a los órdenes importados de las distintas procedencias
“El hombre que encuentra una pepita podrá comprar su propia vida. El mundo civilizado no ofrece ese tipo de promesas.”
Por supuesto, en esta comparación gana por amplia goleada el Plantador de tabaco, más paródica, absurda, placentera, hilarante y lujuriosa que esta que tratamos aquí. Parafraseando una cita de aquella novela y que ya resalté en su correspondiente reseña, en El Plantador nos es dado ver mucho mejor el corazón y la médula de la vida; es en mayor medida ese maravilloso chismorreo de dioses que es un cuento bien urdido.

Esta novela, en mi opinión, está lejos de estar bien urdida aunque sí bien escrita. Esta trama detectivesca sin detective tiene varios puntos que rayan en lo inverosímil sin el propósito de serlo (o sin importarle a la autora que lo sean), lo que en este tipo de literatura no es un dato muy a favor. Como tampoco lo es, para mi gusto, ese elemento fantástico que tiene un enorme protagonismo en la historia y que a mí terminó por sacarme de ella. Y aun así, aguanté el tirón… pero creo que no será grave y que pronto estaré completamente recuperado.
Profile Image for Darwin8u.
1,599 reviews8,730 followers
November 25, 2015
“The proper way to understand any social system was to view it from above.”
― Eleanor Catton, The Luminaries


There is certainly a lot to like about Eleanor's novel. Its structure is fascinatingly clever and reminds me a lot of the way Nabokov divided Ada, or Ardor. Part 1: 360 pgs, Part 2: 160 pgs, Part 3: 104 pgs, Part 4: 96 pgs, Part 5: 40 pages, Part 6: 26 pages, Part 7: 13 pages, Part 8: 10 pgs, Part 9: 6 pgs, Part 10: 6 pgs, Part 11: 4 pages, Part 12: 4 pages. Or looked at slightly differently:


Compare this to Nabokov's ADA: Part 1: 326 pgs, Part 2: 120, Part 3: 86, Part 4: 32, Part 5: 25
Or looked at slightly differently:


Catton is following in the brave tradition of Nabokov, Pynchon, et al in constructing an elaborately structured novel. The plot is interesting, but at times ends up being a little redundant. Do we really need to look at the same event from twelve different angles? OK, I'm not sure if that actually ever happens, but at points in the novel it felt like it did.

The problem with Catton is all the writers I want to compare her to (Pynchon, Dickens, Carey, Nabokov) demolish her prose. Her language while precise didn't twinkle or thrill me. Her plot while interesting didn't pull OR push me. Her characters while curious didn't move or provoke me. And her setting, while exotic didn't capture or entice me. I want to give her credit for her MFA/MCW-boxed ambition, but great literature can't be solely rewarded for its ambition and potential. 'The Luminaries' lacked the heart, soul and transcendence that a book about the stars and lovers almost demands. She belongs on the shelf next to Eggers, just not next to Nabokov.
Profile Image for Doctordalek.
99 reviews21 followers
August 31, 2013
Disclaimer: I received this book as part of the Goodreads "First Reads" program.

A short word before I get into my review. I understand that this book just isn't for me. It's longlisted for the Booker, Goodreads reviewers generally love it, the author is a real up-and-comer... but it just didn't do it for me.

I think it may have been unfortunate that I read this book so quickly after reading another that really blew me away (Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates), so I kept comparing them (even if I didn't want to or mean to) as I read this one. As a quick glance into my mindset, I'll post a comparison here and maybe you can understand why I just couldn't get into the book.

Both books included parts where people were looking into mirrors, as a way for the author to describe what drives these superficial, yet self-conscious, people.

One of my favorite passages from Revolutionary Road describes *so much* about the character in a single line: "He looked at himself in the mirror, tightening his jaw and turning his head a little to one side to give it a leaner, more commanding look, the face he had given himself in mirrors since boyhood and which no photograph had ever quite achieved..." Amazing. One glance in a mirror and we see how superficial and vulnerable this person is.

In The Luminaries, Catton describes a man looking into a mirror in this way. I find it to be terribly long-winded and boring:
"Moody was not unaware of the advantage his inscrutable grace afforded him. Like most excessively beautiful persons, he had studied his own reflection minutely and, in a way, knew himself from the outside best; he was always in some chamber of his mind perceiving himself from the exterior. He had passed a great many hours in the alcove of his private dressing room, where the mirror tripled his image into profile, half-profile and square: Van Dyck's Charles, though a good deal more striking. It was a private practice, and one he likely would have denied - for how roundly self-examination is condemned, by the moral prophets of our age! As if the self had no relation to the self, and one only looked in mirrors to have one's arrogance confirmed; as if the act of self-regarding was not as subtle, fraught and ever-changing as any bond between twin souls. In his fascination Moody sought less to praise his own beauty than to master it. Certainly whenever he caught his own reflection, in a window box, or in a pane of glass after nightfall, he felt a thrill of satisfaction - but as an engineer might feel, chancing upon a mechanism of his own devising and finding it splendid, flashing, properly oiled and performing exactly as he had predicted it should."

Wow. That's a mouthful that does two things: 1. describes how vulnerable he is via his superficial nature, just like the single line used by Yates, and 2. puts me to sleep. I like the bit about the engineer, it's a great line. That plus one other sentence would have been sufficient. But this book is filled with paragraphs upon paragraphs, pages upon pages, which could be cut out completely or at least shortened considerably. It's over 800 pages that could literally be used to fend off a home intruder. I worry that some young authors feel that they have to write a two-inch-thick saga in order to be taken seriously. I really struggled to read it and found that time was grinding to a halt. I read so I can relax and enjoy being swept away into another world. If this other world is so boring and tortuous that it makes me want to stop reading, it's just not worth it.

I obviously don't "get" the book. It's nothing against the author, who will have a long and fruitful career even though I didn't like what she wrote. I feel bad giving it one star, but given that this book made me dread the act of reading - something that I normally *love* - I really couldn't see any other alternative.
Profile Image for Jaline.
444 reviews1,652 followers
May 21, 2017
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!
Profile Image for Dan Petegorsky.
153 reviews1 follower
November 2, 2013
For me, at least, the greatest mystery of this massive whodunit is how it won the Booker Prize. I don't think I can do any better describing it than this review from The Guardian, which I'd have been better off reading before I read the novel. While the reviewer sees these traits as a mark of (meta)literary genius, for me it was just the opposite:

"But it is also a massive shaggy dog story; a great empty bag; an enormous, wicked, gleeful cheat. For nothing in this enormous book, with its exotic and varied cast of characters whose lives all affect each other and whose fates are intricately entwined, amounts to anything like the moral and emotional weight one would expect of it. That's the point, in the end, I think, of The Luminaries. 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?"

In that respect, my answer is decidedly "no," in marked contrast to my experience reading Hannah Kent's Burial Rites - a spare, but beautifully written historical novel of few yet deeply invested characters that also unravels a murder mystery. And which, to deepen the mystery, wasn't even longlisted for the Booker Prize. Go figure.
Profile Image for Nat K.
427 reviews160 followers
June 30, 2022
It was a dark and stormy night…

Well, that’s the premise of the opening chapter. One Walter Moody inadvertently stumbles into the parlour of the Crown Hotel, which is closed that night for a private function. Rain is pouring down. It is a deluge. Twelve men are gathered herein to discuss a matter of the utmost importance and urgency. It would appear that they seem surprised to find one another there. As if this clandestine meeting had not been planned. Mr. Moody is lucky number thirteen. The other men did not expect a stranger to join their ranks, assuming the extreme inclement weather would assure them of secrecy. Walter Moody himself also did not expect to find the parlour filled with men, due to the nature of the weather. Preferring instead to dry off by the fire, nurse a brandy, and be alone with his thoughts…To try to make sense of what he had witnessed on the barque* Godspeed, which has just brought him to these shores.

And so begins over 800 pages of an intriguing, complex novel. Welcome to the goldfields of Hokitika, New Zealand, 1866. Imagine if you will, the hardships the settlers on this new land faced. Yes, they were all there to make their fortune. But at what cost? Picture the wild west, but perhaps a little bit wilder.

Twelve astrological signs, twelve men. From the four corners of the earth. Of different backgrounds, beliefs and creeds. Different accents and languages. Each has his part to play.

"You see in New Zealand every man has left his former life behind & every man is equal in his way... It is not uncommon for men to tip their hats to one another in the street regardless of their station."

Gold. Greed. Smuggling. Skullduggery. Betrayal. Fraud. Forgery. False identity. Identity theft. Infidelity. Treachery. Shipwrecks. Racism. Revenge. Murder. A séance. The blissful oblivion of opium.

There are secrets and lies, half truths and things left unsaid. The observation ”But everyone’s jealous of something.” is oh so apt, and displayed repeatedly in this book.

”For the planets have changed places against the wheeling canvas of the stars.”

I have to admit to being totally oblivious to the reason that the chapters had headings relating to astrological aspects. Some other reviewers, far cleverer than I, have put forward their take on that. It involved too much esoteric thought on my part to even begin to fathom the reasoning behind this. Clever though it is. It took all my thought processes to invest my concentration on the minutiae of the characters and the unfolding of the story, than to think too deeply of the cosmic and worldly plane connections.

"If I have learned one thing from experience, it is this: never underestimate how extraordinarily difficult it is to understand a situation from another person’s point of view."

You have to focus when reading this book. It’s not one to read in quick snippets over a cuppa, or late at night before dozing off to sleep. You have to keep your mind razor sharp, as there is so much going on. You have to take your time and savour it. You need to ponder about what you’ve read. You need to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Make them fit. Slowly, slowly.

As the story progresses and it becomes more involved - it simultaneously becomes clearer - if that makes sense. The pieces of the puzzle do begin to fit. You can start to join the dots and see the connections. It's easy to get immersed. The more I read, the more I had lightbulb moments where I realised how clever the links between the stories were. It is so intricately done.

I have to admit I struggled with this book at the beginning. It is dense. It's not easy to get your head around. The first few hundred pages are spent introducing the characters and setting the scene for the climax of the story. It's hard work. I can understand people floundering. Or giving up. But if you stick with it, once you reach a certain point, the story gathers momentum and picks up speed remarkably fast. Ironic, as while the chapters grow ever smaller, more revelations are revealed.

For all the mystery and intrigue, this is also a love story. Which isn’t overtly obvious, and I don’t know how many other readers will have felt the same way about it. It’s easy to overlook, as there is so much else going on, as the primary focus lies elsewhere.

”We all want to be loved - and need to be loved, I think. Without love, we cannot be ourselves.”

Anna Wetherell and Emery Staines are twin flames - having been born on the same day at the same time - their love is as guileless as it is true. While Lydia Wells and Francis Carver display the darker side of love. Cruel and predatory. As the finding of gold can signal new beginnings or alternately cause grief and destruction, so can love either be the comfort of coming home to someone, or bringing out the worst shadow side of people.

I had many stops and starts reading this. And read many other books in between. I started in January, and now being October, means it took me a good nine months. Quite the time investment. Seasons have come and gone. I started reading this at the height of the Summer - scorching heat, humidity and bushfires; through to the mellowing of Autumn - with a brief glimpse of respite, and smoke free, clean air; after which where we were then taken by surprise by the pandemic, to a Winter spent indoors effectively under lockdown, and now we’re in the first blossoming of Spring. Like the changing phases of the Moon in the book, so it has been with reading. All the seasons! All the phases!

Having a hardback version, meant I had to settle in nice and comfy to read it. Take my time. It's not a book you can casually throw in your handbag (or manbag, if you please). Though I did manage to lug it down the beach a couple of times, for a few hours reading. Normally I'll lose track of the plot or characters if I leave a book unread for any length of time. But even with the intervals, I still found it easy to pick up where I left off. Which is unusual for me.

One thing that did frustrate me no end was how one of the township's prostitutes - Anna Wetherell - was continually referred to as a whore. And by this I mean every few pages. It annoyed me not only because she is a pivotal character to the story (and one of two female mains) in a book filled with men, but for the fact that she was so much more than her profession. As the book progressed and I learnt more of her backstory, I started to feel an understanding of her character, an empathy even. To appreciate what she'd been through. How women are so often left to survive as best they can in a “man’s world”. It was phrased beautifully as "A woman fallen has no future; a man risen has no past." As if the story is drawing to attention the disparity of how the sexes are all too often treated. The double standards. Which is why it surprised and disappointed me of the repeated references of her being a whore. If I read it once, I read it a dozen times. More than dozens. Maybe someone out there has done a "whore" word count. Yes, we know what she does for a living. Can we move-on-and-focus-on-the-story. It wasn't driven home repeatedly that this man is a banker, that man a prospector, he’s the jail keeper, he’s a murderer, he's a smuggler etc. This was a huge bone of contention for me. I really don’t know what the purpose of it was. It was as if Ms.Caton was fixated on this point for some reason.

Though this took me months to complete, I'm so glad that I did. Up there with reading another epic From Here To Eternity. Easily these are the two biggest books I've read to date.

Jokes aside, this would've been 5☆ for me if quite a few pages had been shaved off. Did it need to be quite as long as it was? Probably not. More than the page count, I would have been more forgiving if someone had pointed out to Ms. Caton the overuse - to the point of abuse - of the "w" word. It became the literary equivalent of an earworm.

4 full ☆. Undoubtedly this is incredible storytelling. I cannot fault that. It is quite the masterpiece. Yes. It was worth it.

*** Shout out to Collin (*waves*) for suggesting this book. I have to be honest and admit that the sheer size is what put me off reading it for years. It is mammoth. I would never have read it without him. Please check out his profile page (as he's a voracious reader) for the books he’s reading and reviewing. ***

”...we see the world as we wish to perfect it, and we imagine dwelling there.”

* barque = a small sailing ship
Profile Image for Helene Jeppesen.
688 reviews3,625 followers
February 3, 2015
Wow, I have never ever in my life read a book like this before! A book that made me so confused that I was on the verge of giving up on ever understanding what was going on, but at the same time I was extremely intrigued and needed to know what was happening. I started out as a big question mark, I ended with a smile on my face and a "aha" coming out of my mouth. Still, I'm not confident that I've completely understood everything, but it feels great! It basically feels like Eleanor Catton took my mind and tossed it into a tornado before letting everything settle in great understanding. Are you confused by this description? Well, that's what this book does to you.
This story takes its focal point in Walter Moody, but at the same time it's not at all about Walter Moody. It is set in New Zealand among gold diggers; however, very little of the story deals with actual gold digging.
I think what impresses people the most about this book is the way it is beautifully structured around stars and destinies among stars. The first chapters are endless with one-line introductions - the last chapters are shorter than their introductions. Everything fits perfectly, and this perfection entwines with the story which starts out as a confusing mess but ends with all the answers.
I need to reread this book someday because this is one of those books that you need to read again in order to understand everything. However, if you've never read it, I recommend that you do so because this is quite a unique reading experience! :-)
Profile Image for Emma.
2,512 reviews857 followers
May 15, 2018
I LOVED this- best book I've read in a long time. It gripped me from the beginning. Its a very clever, very well plotted intrigue of a book. Layer upon layer is added to the intrigue and all is not revealed until the final pages. Highly recommended.

May 2018
Still loved this on rereading. The audio was excellent. God knows how the narrator managed to do so many varied accents so well. It is the time of the gold rush in New Zealand, the 1860s, where a rich and full cast are brought together in what amounts almost to a comedy of errors. For a lover of historical fiction this book was a real treat! Recommended.
Profile Image for ·Karen·.
617 reviews768 followers
September 20, 2014
Punching below its weight

Maybe the fashion for the kind of book that would land you in the Accident and Emergency Department of your local hospital if you dropped it on your foot has to do with a reaction against our concentration-challenged age of swift soundbites, manic multi-tasking and permanent drip feed of tweets and messages that collude to reduce our ability to focus long and lovingly on one task to the level of a mosquito on speed. David Mitchell recently embraced modern technology by publishing a story on twitter. On my calculation, that format would take around two weeks just to get through the Character Chart that is so helpfully placed at the beginning of this hefty tome.

So, here we have 832 pages of what is a very clever, intricate, well-written, historical mystery novel. But even reading for several hours at a time, an indulgence made easier by the fact that we have no TV blethering in a corner of the room, and more difficult by the fact that there is a need to earn a bit of money and speak to people and get off the sofa and move about a bit sometimes, it still took me eight days to plough through all 832. Why on earth, I kept asking myself. Ruth Rendell is just as good, if less historically minded, if I want a cheery bit of murder and mayhem and a nice wee puzzle solved at the end. Why on earth does Ms Catton have the gall to expect me to spend so much time on a glorious gallimaufry that gets untangled quite nicely, yes, thank you, but at great, irritating length? And how, oh how, did this ever win a literary prize? Indeed, one of the respected literary prizes.

It is competent, no question about it. The puzzle is very intricately plotted, and everything comes together satisfactorily, no loose threads left dangling to snag on a hangnail, no. But why does Ms Catton have to take three hundred and eighty seven pages on her exposition alone? Well, for one thing she does take loving care over her characters, taking paragraphs to carefully fill in all the details of their appearance and personality. And it is all wonderfully done, yes, but the thing is it doesn't matter. Walter Moody, for example, physically attractive, easy to get on with, roguish, unsullied vigour, uninclined to sulk, people take to him easily, Edinburgh background, troubled family, not superstitious, blah blah blah blah bah, but then, having met this charming chappie, we never see him again for around 350 pages, and when we do, he is there in order to resume and summarise the intriguing and complex set-up, helpful, yes, but his character is entirely irrelevant to the function he has to fulfill. All we really need to know about him is that he has some legal training, because later he will do a fantastic job in The Courtroom Scene. But whether he wears yellow trousers or grey, or blows his nose into a hanky or his fingers doesn't make any difference to that.
I'm sure that Ms. Catton was trying to be helpful, build up a picture in the reader's mind, so that she would recognize the bank clerk, the commission merchant, the justice's clerk when she meets them again. But this particular reader had trouble storing quite so much information about 15 white men, so I ended up thinking that maybe Dickens got it right, giving a character an unmistakeable quirk: an odd name like Uriah Heep, or an eccentric way of speaking, like Jingle. Dickens' characters may have been flat, but as Forster said, they vibrate very fast.

But for all that, a literary prize winner that demands so much time should offer more, surely? Layers, depths, something that quivers and resonates with more than mere curiosity to see how it works out? I thought I had spotted the odd hint: a thought about loyalty opposed to honesty; the conflict between different codes of morality, amongst the men of the goldfields opposed to official, legal authority; how hard it is to break out of our own concepts. But they fizzled out very swiftly, so that all I was left with was the weird astrology stuff, Venus in Aries, True Node in Sagittarius, Jupiter in Aspic. Whatever. Are we really expected to take all this seriously? I don't think so. Oh, and how clever the structure is, each section half the length of the one before and so on - it's admirably clever, but it doesn't mean anything.

It has done one thing for me. Apart from exercising my flexor carpi ulnaris. I have decided to go more with non-fiction for a while. It doesn't feel like quite such a waste of time.

Profile Image for David Hebblethwaite.
344 reviews234 followers
March 4, 2014
If I were to rank the books I’ve read during the last five years (and there are over 500 of them) in order of enjoyment, Eleanor Catton’s The Rehearsal would be right at the top of the list. I bought it on a whim, knowing nothing about it; I was nearly put off by its mannered style; but then everything clicked into place, and I ended up with one of the greatest reading experiences of my life. Naturally, then, I’ve been eager ever since to read a second novel by Catton.

Four years after reading The Rehearsal, I have now had that opportunity. At first sight, The Luminaries appears a very different proposition from Catton’s debut: at 830 pages in hardback, it is more than twice the length of The Rehearsal. Where the first novel was set in a deliberately non-specific contemporary Western milieu, the new book is tied firmly to a time and place: the New Zealand gold rush town of Hokitika in 1865-6. Where The Rehearsal was fractured and stylised, The Luminaries has the appearance of being more conventional: the chronology leaps back at one point, and the novel’s twelve parts grow progressively shorter, but there’s nothing as obvious as The Rehearsal’s non-linear blurring of realities; and Catton’s prose remains within a largely convincing 19th-century idiom.

Things are not as simple as they seem, however. What made The Rehearsal stand out so much for me was how its unconventional form and style so completely embodied its central concern of performance, and reflected that back in myriad ways throughout the book. Catton does the same thing in The Luminaries, with a different set of concerns – but the extent of it only becomes apparent once you’ve finished.

Before I get further into that, some plot: we begin on 27 January 1866, when Walter Moody, a Scottish lawyer, walks into the smoking room of Hokatika’s Crown Hotel, disturbing twelve men in conference. Gradually gaining their trust, Moody hears their story: a couple of weeks earlier, a hermit named Crosbie Wells was found dead in his cottage, and a not inconsiderable fortune soon after. Around the same time, a young woman was found unconscious from opium in the road, apparently having tried to commit suicide. Through acquaintance with each other, each of the twelve men discovered that he was somehow connected to these events; so they decided to gather together in this room to discuss what may have happened, and what could be done.

As the novel progresses, more and more connections between the characters become apparent, revealing a complex and dastardly plot. It’s not for me to say much more about the twists and turns; but I will say that, if you want a page-turning murder mystery, you will find one in The Luminaries. This book is as tense and exciting a read as I have come across in a long time. But Catton does not stop there.

If you read any articles about The Luminaries, you’ll soon hear about its elaborate astrological underpinning. Twelve of Catton’s characters (the twelve men interrupted by Walter Moody) represent the signs of the zodiac; another seven represent planetary bodies (Moody is Mercury, for instance). Catton calculated the horoscope for Hokatika during the calendar year in which The Luminaries is set, and transposed the changing positions of each body into the relationships between her characters. Now, for many readers (including myself), I suspect this would not be a satisfactory end in itself: if you don’t know much about astrology, you won’t spot the connections; if you don’t believe in it, then you probably won’t care anyway. But what this astrological foundation does, to my mind, is set up some of the novel’s main subtexts.

One of these, as I’ve hinted above, is the idea of connection and relation. This is perhaps most obvious in the mystery itself: ‘there is no truth except truth in relation’ (p. 364), as Catton’s omniscient narrator puts it; and, indeed, no single character knows the full truth of Crosbie Wells’s death, or the plot going on around it. But we also see this theme manifest in the way that so many of the characters are trying to forge their own paths in life, to act on or against the world (gold prospectors in search of a life-transforming nugget, of course, but others as well), yet are scuppered by the actions of others. Catton’s characters are enmeshed in a web of interdependence that they can only begin to comprehend.

But the zodiac is not only a structure for connecting relationships in this novel; it’s also an artificial pattern imposed by humans on the night sky – and most of the characters have no truck with it. There are several ways in which Catton examines how we try to impose order on reality, and the implications and limitations of doing so. A murder mystery, for example, traditionally relies on a pattern being imposed upon seemingly unconnected facts. There are two major scenes in The Luminaries where this happens: when Moody sums up the accounts of the men in the Crown Hotel, and a later courtroom scene. Both of these sequences end with someone rushing in to announce an unexpected development. It’s a rather melodramatic device, but I see it as a literal interruption of disorder: the facts have been arranged to the characters’ satisfaction; everything seems to make sense – then in comes someone to reveal that it doesn’t. A classic fictional edifice is undermined with one of its own tools.

More pointedly than murder mysteries, there’s another example of a pattern placed over reality in the form of the gold mines themselves. These affect the world physically, silting up the Hokitika River; and Catton never allows us to forget that this is land which once belonged to the Maori. ‘You with your greenstone, us with our gold. It might just as well be the other way about,’ says one character to the Maori Te Rau Tauwhare. ‘No,’ replies Tauwhare, ‘it is not the same’ (p. 814) – but that is as much as we hear. These issues may not be explored in detail in The Luminaries (the book's structure restricts Tauwhare's voice, mirroring the wider society) but Tauwhare still speaks eloquently, for all that he does not say.

I said earlier that each of the novel’s twelve parts is shorter than the last; more precisely, each part is half the length of the previous one (so Part I is nearly half the book, part XII just a few dozen words). This gives The Luminaries the shape of a golden spiral. It also acts like a spiral – or, to keep up the celestial theme, a black hole, stripping out information as it goes. Though the novel begins with the immersive detail of a mystery, when the focus moves back to 1865 to tell the events leading up to Crosbie Wells’s murders, the chapters then get shorter and shorter – the narrative breaks apart.

Here, the novel begins to embody the tension between the open future and rueful hindsight, the sense of predestination and the sense of free will. The summaries heading each chapter (all beginning: 'In which...') take on more of the detail. Without these, each chapter would be a floating fragment of time with no context; the only reason we can place them is that we know what has come afterwards. So the novel spirals down to a singularity, a moment poised between the infinite possibility ahead for those experiencing it, and the inevitable tragedy that we know will unfold. What may seem foreordained after the event is, we see, nothing of the sort in the present moment.

I finished The Luminaries grinning from ear to ear at the experience of having read a novel so completely and idiosyncratically realised. Moments like that are one reason I read books in the first place; and they’re why, for me, Eleanor Catton belongs in the first rank of authors writing today.
Profile Image for Samantha.
102 reviews125 followers
December 29, 2020
In which first impressions are revisited; a fence is sat upon; and a six-month long reading journey is reduced unto a six-paragraph review.

It’s taken me a while to organise my thoughts about this hefty historical fiction tome which doesn’t happen all that often; I generally know quite early on whether I’m going to like a piece of writing or not. On the whole I would say, err, I think I um, liked it? I’m still on the fence. Some days my eye catches it sitting over there on my bookshelf and I remember Lydia Wells’ séance or Walter Moody in the courtroom and those scenes make me smile. Other days just a glimpse of that thick spine gives me a stress flashback to those laborious first chapters that I thought I’d never dig my way out of. On those days I am less fond of it. I’m technically seven years late to the review party for The Luminaries—it took a global pandemic and the looming release date of the miniseries adaptation to finally make me commit to picking it up. But I knew the reading experience would be worthwhile given how all these years’ later critics still laud and fawn over its genius construction.

Its extravagant length, while daunting, wasn’t a turn off. I knew going in that the first part (all 360 pages of it) would be the toughest to get through—other readers had said as much, so I was prepared. Or was I? Those were some densely packed chapters, some up to 40 pages in length, each of which focused on one character, to a painstakingly descriptive degree, who at the end of it, revealed only their small part in what would be an intricately-woven plot. I found this both riveting and absolutely frustrating. I even went so far as to keep notes on all the characters (a cast size that would put Dickens to shame), which ultimately wasn't needed as Catton provides a quick one-page summary of all the characters at the beginning of the second part (it was jaw-dropping how succinctly she does this after spending hundreds of pages doing quite the opposite). It felt like a victory reaching the end of Part One and I blitzed through the remaining 472 pages in less than half the time those 360 pages took.

While the story seems to favour character over plot with its elaborate character profiles that go on at length, I found that even with such detail I couldn’t seem to connect with the characters on any deep level and by the end I felt even more detached from them. At a point, certain characters began to feel less like actual characters and more like literary devices, whose job it was to connect the plot and push the story forward. Its cleverness in scope and structure I felt came at the expense of any real connection with the characters and their stories. What’s more, although Catton paints a beautiful and seemingly accurate picture of 19th century New Zealand West Coast Gold Rush, I found it hard to fully immerse myself in the story. Maybe that’s because the reader is wholly aware that a tale is being told so I felt oddly removed, especially when the authorial presence chimed in to provide a bit of commentary on where the story was headed.

I’m in no way trying to undersell the plot here. There is plenty of action—shipwrecks and shootings, hidden treasures and hermits, poisonings and palm readers. It’s all dexterously conceived and delectably convoluted. It’ll have its hooks in you until you figure out just how the events unfolded. And the end brings us right back to the beginning, in true circular or paradoxical fashion, as Emery Staines would say, “…simply because its cause and its expression are two halves of the very same thing!” The backstory that’s revealed towards the end, indeed what you’ve been hanging out for--for the entire novel--is whittled down into two-page chapters. After the slog it took to get there I found this confounding—mysteries and unexplained plot points are explained/resolved in mere sentences, often in the introductory summaries of the chapters. Many critics consider this deliberate, but I’m not entirely convinced.

Admittedly, the astrological lore which plays an important part in shaping the structure of the narrative was completely lost on me. Indeed, its only significant reference in the story for me came by way of Lydia Wells who talks briefly about the idea of celestial phenomena influencing earthly bodies and their fates. I did like how this played into the love story of Anna Wetherell and Emery Staines, that is, the idea of astral soul-mates. This is subtly and beautifully expressed through a mystical connection, where both are seemingly cosmically tethered, so if something happens to one, it happens to the other.

The Luminaries definitely has that layered-literary-masterpiece feel to it. I can understand its Man Booker prize success and why critics gleefully remark on its cleverness. But put me down as undecided. At the end of this weighty tome I found that overall the story didn’t hold much weight with me at all. I think Guardian reviewer, Kirsty Gunn, captures my thoughts closely when she describes it as “a great empty bag; an enormous, wicked, gleeful cheat…For nothing in this enormous book…amount[s] to anything like the moral and emotional weight one would expect of it.” That being said, I don’t regret the time I spent reading it (although I’m now currently four books behind in my GR Challenge because of it). Doubtlessly, there is an awe-inspiring quality to Catton’s writing, right down to line level, for every sentence seems expertly written and I would labour through all those pages again for this alone.
Profile Image for Gabrielle.
1,018 reviews1,185 followers
January 19, 2022
Somewhere between 3 and 4 stars… I really can’t decide, so rounded up for now.

Even if elements of this book felt superfluous and silly, the skill with which this piece of fiction was meticulously assembled and finely put together, like a complicated but elegant puzzle, forces admiration. I was expecting a completely different book from the one I got, but I pushed on, intrigued – and my efforts were well rewarded.

“The Luminaries” defies summary: there are simply too many characters, and too many little plots – you just have to trust that they come together in the end (they do!), but the broad strokes of the story concern a very lucky prospector gone missing, a hermit who died suddenly in his isolated home, and a young prostitute who seems to have attempted suicide by overdose of opium, all in a small mining town of New Zealand in 1866. Many notables of the small town have been witnesses to strange events or have been part of strange conversations leading up to these three events, and they are discussing the situation together in the billiard room of one of the small town’ hotels when a stranger should happen to walk in, seeking a quiet place to rest after disembarking. They will share their stories with him, and he his with them, and they will attempt to shed some light on this mystery about greed and love.

Catton used astrology, the signs of the Zodiac and star charts as frames from which to hang her story and from which to develop her characters. While I find it clever and appreciate the hard work she clearly put into this, it also felt a bit over the top and not really useful to the advancement of the story. If astrology had been a significant part of the characters’ stories or a frequent topic of discussion amongst them, I might have felt differently, but as it is the only character who ever uses astrology and draws star charts does so as a fraud, which felt odd considering how important Catton obviously felt the “science” was to her novel’s structure.

She also wanted to emulate the novels published around the time her story is set, by imitating the language and the form of each chapter having a short header setting the stage for the action. This was cute, but around then end, when all the strings are really coming together and one sees the big picture clearly at last, it started to feel silly, especially as the closing chapters are very short and you almost get more information from the header than you do from the actual text.

She also plays with mathematics and proportion, each part of the novel being apparently exactly half the length of the previous part. I didn’t do the math (I hate math), but while I can appreciate the technical work that went into this, it also felt a touch gimmicky.

Now, despite all these gripes, I enjoyed this story quite a bit! The intricate conspiracy, the fragmentary accounts slowly coming together, the characters that are often neither entirely good nor entirely bad, but simply people making the best of the strange situation they are in, we’re interesting and varied and I appreciated the care that went into creating them. I also had no idea that New Zealand had had a gold rush, and therefore, it’s fair share of wild west-type stories as well!

I would warmly recommend this book as a great reading experience, but will I re-read it or wish to hang on to my copy? The jury is still out on that one. But I will be watching the 2020 miniseries.


Thoughts about the miniseries:

It was really enjoyable few hours of television! The setting is beautifully done, and the casting is very solid (Eva Green is as amazing as always)! The focus was shifted a bit, and orbits more directly around Anna, Lydia, Emery and Crosbie - and of course Carver - so the twelve men who narrate the story in the book take a bit of a backseat to the action, but without any harm coming to the story. Catton herself did the writing for the show, and she really managed to keep all the important bits and still make it a very entertaining watch. The astrology elements are also a bit more present in the show but they do not take over the plot.
Profile Image for Lawyer.
384 reviews841 followers
October 1, 2016
The Luminaries: What Hath Eleanor Catton Wrought?

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.-Macbeth, Act Five, Scene Five, William Shakespeare

Eleanor Catton remains the youngest woman to have been awarded The Man Booker Prize. Her novel, The Luminaries, logging in at eight hundred thirty four pages, is the longest novel to have received the award. Ms. Catton is one of only two New Zealanders who has won this distinguished literary prize. These interesting tidbits of information do not address, nor should address the literary merit of this massive novel.

Having quoted Shakespeare's "Macbeth," I do not intimate that The Luminaries should be considered a tale told by an idiot. Oh, no. Catton has artfully crafted a complex behemoth of a tale of the Gold Rush of 1866 in New Zealand. This is a work that carries great promise. The scope of Catton's cast of characters intimates she has done her research on the New Zealand gold fields. The ultimate question is whether Catton's tale, artfully crafted or not, leaves the reader with the satisfaction of having completed a work that leaves a lasting impression, or at least some semblance of significance.

The Luminaries is replete with diggers, businessmen, politicians, Chinese miners and dispensers of opium, ladies of the evening, to use the appropriate Victorian vernacular. The plot winds through time, conveying the reader through the perceptions of a dozen characters. It stands to reason that while the perception of an individual may constitute reality to that particular person, the perceptions of twelve different individuals definitely does not constitute a reality the reader may recognize as accurate.

Careening through Catton's convoluted plot, her players strutting upon her literary stage never develop substantive form. They are incomplete shadows. We never develop a true sense of who these people are.

This novel has been called a parody of the Victorian novel. The reader is tempted to resort to the term Dickensian. The name Wilkie Collins has also been bandied about as a writer whose style Catton so ably captured. However, what is obviously Catton's cleverness in the construction of this novel, leaves this reviewer with the impression of having been told a joke overly long that concludes with a punchline that did not merit the length of the telling. And, so it goes.
Profile Image for Emily Coffee and Commentary.
474 reviews155 followers
November 21, 2022
A delightfully witty exploration of theft, fortune, and justice during the New Zealand gold rush. A mosaic of animated, unique characters that align with astrological bodies make piecing together the puzzle of this novel extraordinarily entertaining. With every twist and turn, there is something new to be said about the cast, the environment, the circumstances. Sometimes angsty, sometimes humorous, sometimes dreamy and reflective, the Luminaries offer a glimpse into the lives of those who have been deceived, those who wish to gain more than their station, those who wish to seek a new life and make a fortune; the shifts in tone are both realistic and engaging. The fun of this novel is in the obvious thought and care that has gone into it; this is the type of novel that would uncover something new during a reread.
Profile Image for Medini.
381 reviews58 followers
March 23, 2016

Why I did not want to read this book initially:

1. This book won the Booker Prize in 2013. I know people specifically seek out award winning and nominated books, but I tend to be a little wary of such books. I know… I’m weird that way.
2. At 834 pages, this book is MASSIVE.
3. There’s this astrological and zodiac aspect to this book, which I didn’t think I would understand.
4. I didn’t own it, nor did I know anyone who had this book. I didn’t want to read such a huge book in the ebook format.

But then I visited a library recently and my sister picked this book up. It took me almost a week to read it, but I am SO GLAD.

Coz The Luminaries blew me away.

It 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 met 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 fortunes that is as complex and exquisitely ornate as the night sky.

This is not just a book. It is a masterpiece with a marvelously structured storyline, a devilishly intricate plot and superlative writing.

‘… his memory, recoiling upon itself, had met its obverse, the power of forgetting, and had conjured the mist and driving rain as a kind of cloth, spectral, to screen him from the shapes of his own recent past.’

Why should you read this book?

1. Firstly, the most unique thing about The Luminaries is its structure. There are 12 chapters, each of which is almost exactly half the length of the previous. So the chapters go on decreasing in length steadily, till the twelfth chapter wherein the introduction is longer than the content itself. Also, the book is constructed like the phases of the moon. The plot begins and 400 pages in, it reaches a climax. Then the flashbacks begin and the last chapter ends once again at the beginning. So it’s really like the lunar cycle; the narrative is brought back around to meet its starting point. Incidentally, the city in which most of the story is set in, ‘Hokitika’, literally means ‘full circle’.

2. It is historical fiction set in 1865-66. If you’re a fan of this genre, then this book should be at the top of your TBR.

3. Unlike the Victorian London and American historical fiction setting (SO commonplace), this is set in New Zealand! Which is so refreshing! I’ll be the first to admit that the cities and names were a little unusual, but it’s still amazing!

4. The plot is centered on the New Zealand Gold Rush. We learn about diggers, the gold mines, the process of retorting and smelting gold, gold magnates, prospectors, the greed, corruption and yes, sometimes moral fiber that controls the actions of the characters.

5. There is a murder. But to call this book a murder mystery would be like calling Harry Potter a book about 'this boy who knows magic', or A Game of Thrones a book about 'this girl with dragons'! You get my drift, right?
The Luminaries is so complex; there are opium dens, séances, exotic dancing bars (“The House of Many Wishes”), forgeries, long lost siblings, prostitutes, adultery, fraud, blackmail, theft, betrayal, politics, banking, shipping, insurance, finance, a fabulous courtroom scene and yes, there’s a romance too.

6. There is an eclectic cast of morally ambiguous characters. They’re written with a lot of insight and have their own flaws and quirks, which make them unique and unforgettable.
There are 12 major ones, each represented by a zodiac sign. There are 5 other equally important characters represented by planets. Each chapter begins by telling you what’s gonna happen, like, Jupiter in Sagittarius, so you can figure out who���s Jupiter and you can relate the characteristics of Sagittarius to the character who represents it. It’s not as tedious as it sounds. It’s a lot of fun.

7. There’s a paranormal element, which reveals itself towards the end. I loved, LOVED the cosmic twins theory connecting , two of my favorite characters. Read more about this here.

8. The writing (for me) was spot on. Eleanor Catton’s use of metaphors and her sentence construction drew me in like the sweet, intoxicating haze of opium smoke.

‘… the bloody smell of slaughter intermingled with the sour, briny smell of the sea, putting one in mind, perpetually, of an untended icebox in which an uncured joint has spoiled.’

‘Within minutes they sighed, became drowsy, and passed into the underwater moonscape of a strange, scarlet-tinted sleep.’

9. You don’t need to know a damn thing about astrology, mining, banking or shipping to savor this book. Every detail interspersed, every astrological chart at the beginning of each chapter contributes to this book’s richness.

10. I’m not ashamed to say I learnt a lot of new words. I mean, it’s not every day you come across words such as ‘chorister’ or ‘scree’ or ‘andiron’

11. Eleanor Catton is fiendishly clever . She’s woven these minute details, which seemingly make no sense, but are all part of the gloriously twisted web that is The Luminaries. For example, the value of the gold discovered is exactly 4096 pounds. 4096 is 2 to the power of 12 and there are 12 chapters.

12. When you do manage to sort out this tangled skein of plot threads and unravel all the mysteries, the revelation is like scattered stars finally forming a magnificent constellation and everything makes sense again.

Bear in mind, this book isn’t for everyone. I did object to a few parts, the excessive ill treatment of the Asians and the unequal page space for all the characters. Also, I would have liked to know more about Walter Moody and Ben Lowenthal. However, I finished the book with a dropped jaw and a mouth hanging open.


I can’t wait to re-read this beauty and witness the subtle nuances better, the second time around.

Profile Image for Julie.
Author 6 books1,864 followers
December 27, 2013
The Wild, Wild West, a frontier filled with dreamers, convicts, schemers and entrepreneurs. Some hope to make that lucky strike, others attach themselves like parasites to stars on the rise and the canniest let the eager do the dirty work while they provide the booze, drugs and women for which all men—regardless of their luck—will lay down cash money. This is the Gold Rush, the West Coast, the late 1860’s—but we’re not in California, Toto. This is the South Island of New Zealand, circa 1866, in the wet, green folds of the Southern Alps where they tumble into the Tasman Sea.

Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries is also the frontier of storytelling—a no-holds-barred, raucous flight of imagination that I devoured with Epicurean pleasure. Jumping into its alphabet-soup cast of characters with chewy names like Emery Staines (an angelic young man, popular, rich and missing), Cowell Devlin (a man of God), George Shepard (whose flocks are housed in the town jail) and Anna Wetherell (a prostitute~ingenue who weathers all kinds of storms) is like tumbling in a dryer with towels and tennis shoes. You never know when you’ll get smacked upside the head with a plot twist.

This is a Gold Rush-era version of The Usual Suspects: Everyone’s got a story and no one is telling the truth. In this case, a hermitic prospector is dead, the town’s richest man is missing, a prostitute is senseless and wearing a dress lined with gold, a politician is being blackmailed, a body rises from its makeshift coffin in a doomed ship’s cargo hold and a beautiful redhead has just sashayed into town, claiming to be a widow and seeking what remains of her husband’s estate. Spinning all around this stage are twelve Luminaries: a constellation of men whose points of view we dip into throughout the novel, trying to unravel a mystery that is woven more tightly with each page.

Much has been made of Catton’s clever structure: The Luminaries is a set piece held aloft by an astrological chart that divides each part into smaller and smaller sections (Part One is 358 pages long; Part Twelve, two), according to celestial logic. But don’t be deterred by this ornamentation. I didn’t pay a whit of attention to the charts that precede each section—I couldn’t be distracted from carrying on with the story. Yet, there is something to be said for Catton’s conceit. The novel begins with a crowded, opulent jumble of characters and detail, like a sky full of dazzling stars. As its 832 pages turn, black space is allowed in, the focus narrows and individual details begin to sharpen.

The tale is told first from outside-in, then inside-out, from high to low, back-to-front, by the dead and the living, in court, in bed and in confession. Mystery is added to adventure and star-crossed love eventually conquers all.

I can’t remember when I’ve taken such delight in reading, when I felt the author’s sheer joy in writing. I've seen a handful of gripes that Catton’s story and style lack warmth and her characters are shallow. I dunno. I didn’t get a sense that she intended to write epic historical fiction in which the characters’ characters rise and fall and rise again and we feel morally lifted from the lessons learned. Sometimes it’s perfectly all right for the reading experience to be sheer pleasure. When it’s not only pleasurable, but intellectually stimulating, laugh-out-loud surprising and historically illuminating, you’ve got a five-star read.

Eleanor Catton has crafted a rollicking, unexpected and deeply satisfying carnival ride that ends all too soon. I doff my top hat and bow. Brava.
Profile Image for Brown Girl Reading.
356 reviews1,575 followers
September 4, 2017
EXCELLENT! It's really a masterpiece and hard to wrap my head around the idea that the author Eleanor Catton was only 28 when she wrote it and she won the Man Booker. Brilliant! IT took me a while to read it because the book is very dense. There's a lot to process all the time, however once you get past page 300 I feel things get a lot easier to process. I recommend the hardcover because the typography is well spaced in comparison to the paperback. Definitely a must read.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 9,149 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.