REVIEW: The Luminaries

Having crossed the 800 page mark, there's no denying that Eleanor Catton's second novel – with all its intricacy and complexity – is an accomplishment. Here is an author working at her strongest; meticulously plotted and bustling with lyrical language, Catton takes the reader right into the midst of Victorian New Zealand, delving deep into an atmospheric murder mystery of the best sort – I was enthralled throughout.

Author: Eleanor Catton | Publisher: Granta Books | Release date: 01.08.13 | Pages: 848 | Source: for review
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On a blustery January day, a prostitute is arrested. In the midst of the 1866 gold rush on the coast of New Zealand, this might have gone unnoticed. But three notable events occur on that same day: a luckless drunk dies, a wealthy man vanishes, and a trafficker of ill repute cancels all of his business and weighs anchor, as if making an escape. Anna Wetherell, the prostitute in question, is connected to all three men.
This sequence of apparently coincidental events provokes the powerful town rulers to form a secret council to investigate what they believe is a conspiracy to murder. But their clandestine meeting is interrupted by the arrival of a stranger: young Walter Moody has come to seek his fortune on the goldfields, and he, it turns out, has a secret of his own...

MY THOUGHTS: I took a long time to read this book, well, longer than a book of this length would usually take me; I savoured every word of every chapter, I took lengthy breaks to recollect all my thoughts, I put a great deal of time into fully immersing myself into Catton's world... and yet... and yet the whole novel still remains an enigma to me.

“A woman fallen has no future; a man risen has no past.”

Painfully clever, extraordinary in every sense of the word, and yet, thoroughly unexplainable; Eleanor Catton has left me stumped – in the best way possible, of course. Layer upon layer, the author writes with flourish and style. I have never read a book so elaborate in its writing and plot that also manages to simultaneously maintain a large cast of complex, interesting characters. Even at only 27 years old, there's no doubt Eleanor Catton is one of the most skilled authors I've had the pleasure of encountering.

And the setting, oh, the setting! The Guardian's Kirsty Gunn has got it spot-on: "Catton has created her own world in The Luminaries – an upside-down, southern hemisphere kind of a place with its own astrological calendar that casts its own kind of influence, its own light." I spent all 800 pages trying to absorb everything there was to absorb about the town of Hokitika – a place of illusions, of bewilderment. It is often said that a setting can sometimes be the main character of a book... whilst I do not think that is the case with The Luminaries, I do think the craftsmanship of Hokitika is an achievement on its own. As for the mystery aspect... there is nothing to be said that hasn't already been said; it really is as gripping as has been claimed.

Admittedly, though, I did stumble through the middle section – intricate and delicate as it was, Catton sure did create a lot of confusion within me! Unfortunately, I really am one of those "does a book really need to be this long?" people... perhaps readers with more stamina and patience will struggle less than I did. As for the teenage audience, I only recommend if you can be bothered to tackle an 800-page book – it's definitely worth it, you just need to put the effort in.

For me, I feel my enjoyment of this book was dependent on the amount of time I invested in it. Catton has created a sophisticated, extravagant tale, and – as much as I'd love Ruth Ozeki to win – I have a hunch she might bag the prize this year.

Favourite Quotations:    
“Love cannot be reduced to a catalogue of reasons why, and a catalogue of reasons cannot be put together into love.”

In One Word?
Why? 
Before I even began the novel, I had heard that it was "labyrinthine", "elegant" and "perfected"; only one page in, I knew this was true. Beginning with an opening that wouldn't look out of place on the big screen, The Luminaries is definitely a tale of extravagance.
**NOTE: I'm incredibly sorry for my recent lack of posting... I have a lot of schoolwork that I must prioritise and yeah.**


16 comments:

  1. The only other review I've seen of this was in the Guardian, and it does sound like an incredibly intricate and well-written novel. I'd love to read it, but 800+ pages would probably take me a week or two, and I have so many other books to read! If I get the chance though, I will definitely be reading The Luminaries. Thanks for the lovely review, Ruby!

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    1. You're welcome Maya! And yes, this took me around a week... which, to be honest, has put me behind on reviewing... but, it was worth it!

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    2. Well in that case I must read it! I'll order it in at the library next time I'm there ;)

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  2. *gawks* brilliant review, Ruby. I must say, you really have convinced me to read this. I think I would be able to read that long of a book, but SCHOOL IS KILLING ME. For a book like this, I would need to give it all my attention, to soak up the information. I'll def. check this one out! (:

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    1. Oh don't worry, I can relate! I have had hardly any time to post of recent because of school and bleurgh... :)

      Glad you like the review though. :D

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  3. This is an amazing review, Ruby!

    I can't wait to read this! I've been anticipating The Luminaries the most out of the Man Booker shortlist. The way you describe it, 'painfully clever'. I am even more excited to read it now. I really think I'd love this book, and I've heard not one bad thing about it. Thanks for the fantastic review! :)

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    1. You're welcome! :P And yes, it definitely is clever haha... how's A Tale for the Time Being going?

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  4. The way you have described this sounds utterly brilliant! I don't think I would be able to deal with a length of 800 pages long and some confusion, but this does sound really good. I love a great writing style and since reading your review I feel compelled to experience it for myself. I'm glad you loved it so much and well done for hanging in there. Great Review as usual Ruby!

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    1. Aw thanks Sunny! Perhaps, if you think you'll find it confusing, you should give another Man Booker nominee a go? I can't stress how much I recommend A Tale for the Time Being – especially to a teenage audience.

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  5. I kept seeing you tweet about The Luminaries and so was looking forward to your review! :)

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  6. Sounds like a fantastic book, and a very big one too! I always love reading how you describe your opinions in reviews, e.g. "Painfully clever". Things like that make the reviews something really unique. :)

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    1. Aw thank you! I always aim for my posts to be unique. ;D

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  7. Thanks for a great review! Was thinking about getting or not this book, now definitely will buy it. By the way, I really like your blog and would love to be friends :)
    Lera
    http://bookwormmeetsfashion.blogspot.co.uk/

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  8. Love your review and this book sounds beeeeautiful. If you really loved a 800 paged book, and didn't get bored, then it must be flipping AMAZING!

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