Sunday, 22 June 2014

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

This is also a review for Book Beginnings on Friday  hosted by Rose City Reader:

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton starts with Mercury in Sagittarius:

The twelve men congregated in the smoking room of the Crown Hotel gave the impression of a party accidentally met. From the variety of their comportment and dress - frock coats, tailcoats, Norfolk jackets with buttons of horn, yellow moleskin, cambric, and twill - they might have been twelve strangers on a railway car, each bound for a separate quarter of a city that possessed fog and tides enough to divide them; indeed, the studied isolation of each man as he pored over his paper, or leaned forward to tap his ashes into the grate, or placed the splay of his hand upon the baize to take his shot at billiards, conspired to form the very type of bodily silence that occurs, late in the evening, on a public railway - deadened here not by the slur and clunk of the coaches, but by the fat clatter of the rain.

This is a much appreciated book, having won the Man Booker prize this year. It seems that people either love it or hate it. It is a very special book, as I would say all Man Booker prize winners are! I am not always on the same tune as they are. However, for this book, I am.

Eleanor Catton
It is a difficult book to have an opinion of. That is why I think you either love it or hate it. I read it for one of my book clubs and I am for it, but I am sure not everyone is. We will meet on Wednesday so we will see.

One of the reasons why I love it, I think is, that I always loved the Wild West. This is not exactly the wild west, but still looking for gold...this time not in the US but in New Zealand's South Island's West Coast in mid 1860s. It starts with a death and a disappearance. From there you follow the action from 12 different people's view. It starts with Walther Moody arriving in Hokitika and by chance checking in to a hotel, visiting the bar and running in to a gang of 12 people having decided to meet to get the whole picture of the death and the disappearance! On you go for 832 pages with a story that is sometimes told in 2nd person sometimes in 3rd person. Most of the men are connected to Anna, the whore, but she is quite mysterious until the very end.

At some point in the end of the story I felt that it was maybe to long and dragged out to long. However, the story was told in such a delicate way and in such a way that you always looked forward to another view. In the latter part of the book you get the story of what happened before the book starts. I found it quite strange, but on the other hand, it gives you the background. And then the end.... I wondered how it would end from the middle of the book...and then it ended? Well, I let you discover for yourselves.!

What I mostly loved about the book, apart from the story, which was told in a very sensitive way, was the language in which it was written. Beautiful, quite simple, prose. It gave a very interesting view of the characters, all very different, but becoming very familiar when you return to them. I think, that what mostly grasped me was the language in which it was told.

For me, it was a lovely book!


  1. I completely agree with everything you said. This book isn't for everyone, many would be put off by the length along, and the meandering plot line makes it somewhat difficult to follow. Even keeping all the characters straight became confusing for me once in awhile. But, like you, I love the West, and I loved the beautiful prose. I think you used the word "sensitive" which is a beautiful way to describe it. Amazing that a writer so young could produce such a work. I say that in comparison to 26 year old Joel Dicker's The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair which I thought a piece of trash.

    I had wanted to comment before, but was unable to find your blog from the google+ page. I'm glad this time I succeeded! :)

  2. Thank you Bellezza. Yes, amazing how someone that young can write like that. Just to keep track of all the persons!

    Sorry about the difficulty to comment. I am not really up-to-date with all the technology yet!

  3. It's nice to finally see a review of this book! I have had so many people requesting it at work and I've been curious about it ever since. It sounds like a really interesting read, but I might avoid it for now. 832 pages is a lot and you say it dragged in points. I'm in a bit of a reading slump right now and think I need something a lot lighter to read.

  4. Thank you. It was a very nice book and it was written in such a nice way, seeing the same story develop from different points of view. I just loved her language which made it so easy to read and her description of the different people which in the end makes you feel you know them.

    I agree it is a thick book. I read it on my iPad mini so didn't see the thickness, but it took me an unusual long time to read it, although the statistics says around 20 hours! But over two weeks I think. But it is really worth a read when one has the time!