Eleanor Catton celebrates
The early reviews are in for 2013 Man Booker Prize winner Eleanor Catton’s historical novel, The Luminaries. Unsurprisingly, reviewers are glowing in their praise for what many critics call “a literary masterpiece”.
On Amazon, one reviewer said: “Catton’s novel is delightfully intricate, with plot, characters and timelines woven into a complex pattern.” (Seven reviewers made similar comments).
Another reviewer said: “To write such a complex and masterful work so confidently blows my mind.” (Four reviewers made similar comments).
And another said: “Really pleased I persevered, this is a very well written book, great story line and well constructed characters.” (Three reviewers made similar comments).
The Luminaries – “masterful”
It is 1866, and Walter Moody has come to make his fortune upon the West Coast goldfields. On the night of his 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 sum of money 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.
At 28, Kiwi author Eleanor Catton is the youngest ever Man Booker Prize winner. Born in Canada and raised in New Zealand, her debut novel The Rehearsal won the Adam Prize and was Best First Book of Fiction at the 2009 Montana New Zealand Book Awards. Internationally, it was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and the Dylan Thomas Prize, and longlisted for the Orange Prize, and won the 2009 Betty Trask Award. It has been published in 17 territories and 12 languages.
Eleanor Catton holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she also held an adjunct professorship, and an MA in creative writing from the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University of Wellington. She lives in Auckland.
Notwithstanding many rave reviews The Luminaries has attracted, the most “popular” review on Amazon at the time of writing was this (unabridged) 3-star review posted by Top 500 reviewer Mary Lins:
A Commitment – Not For Everyone
Gushing reviews are easy to write, (so are pans), but what to say when you know that a book is well written, innovatively and creatively structured, and is destined to be loved by many, but it just didn’t appeal to you? “The Luminaries” by Eleanor Catton, is such a book. Short-listed for the Booker Prize, this novel, that weighs in at over 800 pages, takes a bit of a commitment to get into and, once invested, it must “grab” you to continue. I got half-way through and then had to have a “talk with myself” about continuing. It just isn’t my kind of novel and continuing was going to take too much of my precious reading time. Yet, I was far enough in to see that its innovative style of folding back in on itself will appeal to many readers. It’s like a complicated pastry; the plot is kneaded and folded to produce the confection intended. This is not a novel for readers who like their plots to be linear.
Catton’s writing style is beautifully lush and vividly descriptive. Her descriptions of the myriad characters are wonderfully rendered both in the descriptions of their physical selves and of their inner selves. Catton also creates a unique and interesting setting of a New Zealand gold mining town in the mid-nineteenth century.
I’m posting this candidly honest review to help other readers ascertain if they are the type of reader who will enjoy this unique novel, or not.