Winner of the 2013 Man Booker Prize and Canada's Governor General's Literary Award, a breathtaking feat of storytelling where everything is connected, but nothing is as it seems....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 men 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 bus, The Luminaries is a brilliantly constructed, fiendishly clever ghost story and a gripping page-turner. It is a thrilling achievement for someone still in her midtwenties, and will confirm for critics and readers that Eleanor Catton is one of the brightest stars in the international writing firmament.
PARTICULARS OF THIS BOOK :
Published by Little, Brown and Co.
Genre: Historical Fiction
Author: Eleanor Catton
ABOUT THE AUTHOR :
Eleanor Catton was awarded the 2013 Man Booker Prize for The Luminaries. Her first novel, The Rehearsal, won the 2009 Betty Trask Award and the Adam Prize in Creative Writing, and was long-listed for the Orange Prize and short-listed for the Dylan Thomas Prize. She holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop and an MA in fiction writing from the International Institute of Modern Letters. Born in Canada, Catton was raised in New Zealand, where she now lives.
VIDEO OF MS CATTON DISCUSSING HER BOOK:
What would a 28 year old "child" have to say that would cause her to win the Man Booker Prize we might ask. I certainly did when I picked up "The Luminaries" to decipher the mystery. This is a hefty book of over 800 pages...is it just the sheer volume of words and the juggling of them that makes them worthy? I was interested in the pre-press I'd received giving Ms Catton such accolades as that she was a writer in the vein of Charles Dickens (hence the volume of letters/words), with touches of other famous Victorian authors and famous writers of note. I don't care for it when new authors are compared to the classics...somehow it sets them up not to be given credit for themselves. In this case, Eleanor Catton earns every single laud she gets.
While her novel is a load to carry or sit with to devour, it is pure and strong, and her words have a clear ring of truth. Her writing style is crystalline. Not at all heavy and burdened by the verbose as some classic authors can be... Catton is readable.
Not to put too fine a point on the summary of this novel, I think the immediate setting of a barroom at night with a group of otherwise, seemingly unrelated men is a perfect one. Our poor protagonist, Walter Moody, steps into a secret meeting unbeknownst to him, and becomes a divining tool of sorts for the problem/mystery they are struggling with.
I love the complication of manners and the assortment of characters we're introduced to in this novel. Diggers and diviners, dolls and dandies, devilish and divine they are all particularly interesting....gold mad and money hunting...running against a Zodiac circle of time.
Initially, a thread of the story is introduced which concerns a prostitute, a murdered man and a towns people, but I was not dragged into the heart of the book deeply enough, quickly enough, sorry to say. It may have been the season with all the holiday rush and expended energies. This is a book I simply couldn't get entrenched in more than mid-way. However, I wanted to give a quick summary for the moment because I do intend to come back to it to finish it.
I think this is a rare novel. It's beautifully written. Catton has a mesmerizing voice and a story to tell. I liked her attaching the metaphysical to the whole, as well.
While I didn't have time to finish the book this time through, I will be finishing it in the new year.
And, so far, I give the book a 4.5 stars.
I hope you'll take up the challenge and put this one on your Christmas list. There is no doubt about Catton's writing style and gorgeous use of words.