The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

Have you ever read a book and thought "I've got to be half way through it by now.", then looked and in fact you aren't even a quarter of the way through it? 

I'm not a big believer in bragging about the ability to motor through a book. Yes, I can read quickly, however, for me reading is about the enjoyment of the story - no matter how long it takes you to get through. 

The Luminaries is a beast of a book. I was bought this for Christmas by Mr M, that's right, Christmas. I started reading it just after New Year and finished it in March. March! 

It's not that the book was a tedious read, far from it, it is simply that there is so much of it. This is not the kind of book that you can dip in and out of during your lunch break or for an hour before bed. No, no, this is the kind of book that you need to take with you everywhere. 

Set in the Gold mining town of Hokitika, New Zealand in 1866, the book is centred around a group of twelve men attempting to find reason and understand the truth behind a series of strange events and crimes. A missing rich man, a Working girl who appears to have attempted suicide, and a recently deceased drunk with a large stash of money hidden in his cottage all combine to make an impossibly entangled tale. 

This novel won The Booker Man prize for 2013 and it's easy to see why. The depth of detail is outstanding. There is true literature in this book, best depicted in Catton's character development which makes each character completely relate-able in differing ways. 

One of the things that struck me most whilst reading this book was the beautiful way in which Eleanor Catton writes, there is true credit to be given to an author who can take their reader's breath away with words.  One of my favourites: 
"As she moved he smelled her again - the sea. The intensity of the sensation startled him. He had to check the urge to step towards her, to follow her and breathe her in. He smelled salt, and iron, and the heavy metallic taste of foul weather...low cloud, he thought, and rain." 

The plot is drawn out slowly, at some point perhaps to slowly for me, but it allows you to keep a strong level of interest throughout which builds to a climatic final few chapters.

Throughout the book there is reference to astronomy. I am not fully sure I understand the references and plan on going back to reread the book. Each section of the book is introduced with a Zodiac Chart which should give you a general inclination as to what themes run through each section. 

Also, each chapter is begun with a short description of what is happening throughout the chapter, something which could be dangerous if you are in a "oh, just one more chapter..." mood! 

I had a bit of a love/hate relationship with this book at times. The writing suited me perfectly but sometimes I would find myself thinking "Oh, c'mon already!". I loved the plot and the way it was all brought together....I did not love lugging around a book the size of a small car. In the end though it had me completely gripped and once I had done reading it I missed the world that I disappeared into every time I opened its page. A sure sign of a good book to me!

All in all, this book is outstanding, and is nothing if not sturdy - in both strength of writing and the size! This is definitely on my recommendation list! 

And Kitten Explorer's too! 


  1. I have had my eye on this book for a while, but honestly have been put off by the length. I think I will give it ago though.

    1. It is worth the length! Plus the achievement you feel when you have finished it is immense!!

      B x


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