Luminaries (Catton)

The Luminaries 
Eleanor Catton, 2013
Little, Brown & Co.
848 pp.
ISBN-13: 978

Winner, 2013 Man Booker Prize

A breathtaking feat of storytelling where everything is connected, but nothing is as it seems....

It is 1866, and 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 met in secret to discuss a series of unsolved crimes.

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 patterned as the night sky.

Eleanor Catton was only 22 when she wrote The Rehearsal, which Adam Ross in the New York Times Book Review praised as "a wildly brilliant and precocious first novel" and Joshua Ferris called "a mesmerizing, labyrinthine, intricately patterned and astonishingly original novel." The Luminaries amply confirms that early promise, and secures Catton's reputation as one of the most dazzling and inventive young writers at work today. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Raised—Christ Church, New Zealand
Education—B.A., Umiversity of Canterbury; M.A., Victoria
   University of Wellington
Awards—Man Booker Prize
Currently—lives in New Zealand

Eleanor Catton is a New Zealand author whose second novel The Luminaries has been named on the shortlist of the 2013 Man Booker Prize, thus making her the youngest author ever to be shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Set on the goldfields of New Zealand in 1866, The Luminaries is a mystery and a ghost story. The novel was published by Granta in 2013.

Catton's 2007 debut novel, The Rehearsal deals with reactions to an affair between a male teacher and a girl at his secondary school.

Catton was born in Canada while her father, a New Zealand graduate, was completing a doctorate at the University of Western Ontario. She grew up in Christchurch, New Zealand. She attended Burnside High School, studied English at the University of Canterbury, and completed a Master's in Creative Writing at The Institute of Modern Letters, Victoria University of Wellington. She wrote The Rehearsal as her Master's Thesis.[3]

She was described in 2009 by London's Daily Mail as "this year's golden girl of fiction." (From Wikipedia. Retrieved 9/16/13.)

Book Reviews
Eleanor Catton is an extraordinary writer. Her first novel, The Rehearsal, ...had the reader's mind spinning with the complexities of its narrative invention.... The Luminaries is every bit as exciting. Apparently a classic example of 19th-century narrative, set in the 19th century...the project twists into another shape altogether as we read, and continue to read. The book is massive—weighing in at a mighty 832 pages. But every sentence of this intriguing tale set on the wild west coast of southern New Zealand during the time of its goldrush is expertly written, every cliffhanger chapter-ending making us beg for the next to begin. The Luminaries has been perfectly constructed as the consummate literary page-turner..
Guardian (UK)

It is, in this way, a very old-fashioned book; one that rightfully respects the joy it imparts with each of its many small revelations. And it is this sheer rip-roaring readability, perhaps, that could work against it when the Booker Prize comes to be handed out. Yes it's big. Yes it's clever. But do yourself a favour and read The Luminaries before someone attempts to confine its pleasures to the screen, big or small. It may not be the thing to say these days, but this is a story written to be absorbed from the page.
Observer (UK)

Catton matches her telling to her 19th-century setting, indulging us with straightforward character appraisals, moral estimations of each character along with old-fashioned rundowns of their physical attributes, a gripping plot that is cleverly unravelled to its satisfying conclusion, a narrative that from the first page asserts that it is firmly in control of where it is taking us. Like the 19th-century novels it emulates, The Luminaries plays on Fortune’s double meaning – men chasing riches, and the grand intertwining of destinies.
Telegraph (UK)

But there is a problem with characterisation, especially in a novel of this size. While Anna and Lydia stand out easily enough, the men do not. Catton has a tendency to establish characters by summarising their appearance in a long paragraph, then by giving us another long paragraph to expound on their moral views or emotional predilections. This is scarcely enough.... Catton writes with real sophistication and intelligence, so this weak characterisation is at odds with the rest of the novel, its intricate plotting and carefully wrought scenes. Can it be part of her subversion of the 19th-century narrative? I suspect not – but with a talent like Catton’s, one can never be too sure.
Scotsman (UK)

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