Book Review: The Luminaries Eleanor Catton
The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
Published in: October 2013
Awards: 2013 Man Booker Prize winner
Reviewed by: Book Worm
Rating: 4 stars
Find/Buy it here:The Luminaries: A Novel (Man Booker Prize)
Synopsis (from Amazon): It is 1866, and Walter Moody has come to make his fortune upon the New Zealand goldfields. On arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of twelve local men, who have met in secret to discuss a series of unsolved crimes. A wealthy man has vanished, a whore has tried to end her life, and an enormous fortune has been discovered in the home of a luckless drunk. Moody is soon drawn into the mystery: a network of fates and fortunes that is as complex and exquisitely patterned as the night sky. The Luminaries is an extraordinary piece of fiction. It is full of narrative, linguistic and psychological pleasures, and has a fiendishly clever and original structuring device. Written in pitch-perfect historical register, richly evoking a mid-19th century world of shipping and banking and goldrush boom and bust, it is also a ghost story, and a gripping mystery. It is a thrilling achievement and will confirm for critics and readers that Catton is one of the brightest stars in the international writing firmament.
The book begins in January 1866 when a group of 12 men meet for a private discussion about mysterious events that had occurred a few weeks previously. They are interrupted by the arrival of stranger Walter Moody who happens to be staying at the pub they have chosen for the meeting. After deciding that he is trustworthy, they each relate their stories. Among those stories are the events of January 14th.
On the 14th of January the hermit Crosbie Wells was found dead in his cottage along with a fortune of gold. That same night, lucky young prospector Emery Staines vanishes and the whore Anna Wetherell attempts suicide. As the story progresses it becomes clear that nothing and no one is what the appear to be.
Set in Hokitita New Zealand at the height of the gold rush, the book gives the reader a complete view of what life is like in a gold town. The novel also serves as a warning of the dangers of greed.
The Luminaries is a complicated book and at over 800 pages it demands commitment from the reader. Catton won the 2013 Man Booker Prize for the book, making her the youngest author to ever win the award. It reads like a Wilkie Collins mystery with each new viewpoint adding additional clues and information until the whole story is finally revealed.
I started out thinking this was a 3 star read, however as I was writing this review I realised it warrants at least 4 stars. So if you enjoy a good mystery with twists and turns galore, this is the book for you. Just make sure you give yourself plenty of me time to fully appreciate it.