Saturday 25 January 2014

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

Regular viewers of my blog may have noticed that I've been playing around with backgrounds and layout lately.

When I was doing my 2013 retrospectives, I realised that in July of this year, I will celebrate my 5 years of blogging anniversary.

It seemed like the right time to refresh the way my blog looks.

If I could just work out how to centre my blog name and/or find a banner I like then I would be satisfied with the new look. Any ideas?

But now it's time to get on with all the backed up reviews from my summer reading.

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton won the Booker Prize in 2013. Which means that I can tick this book off my Eclectic Reader Challenge - Award Winning category.

It's also a chunkster, fits the historical fiction/whodunnit genre and it's a book that uses a structural conceit based on astrology.

These are three big crosses in many people's books.
But I'm happy to tackle a chunkster given time and interest and I love historical fiction. As for structural conceits - sometimes they can be annoying, but sometimes they work. Enough has been written elsewhere about this, so I won't go into details except to say that I was okay with it. In fact, I barely noticed the astrological divisions and I didn't feel that I needed to have a working knowledge of astrology to understand the book either.

There are also a number of reviews out there complaining about the wordiness of this book.

Yes, it's wordy, but I didn't think so in a bad way. For me all the words created an incredibly rich, detailed picture of the place, the people and the drama.

The place is Hokitika on the western coast of the South Island of NZ - a place I have visited way back when in 1993. Not quite the goldrush era, but the weather hasn't changed that much in any time!
I could still feel the cold and the wind and I could taste the briny air along with the characters.

It was in Hokitika, that I also bought a beautiful pounamu drop pendant "smooth, milky-grey stones that, when split, showed a glassy green interiors, harder than steel." (pg 99) that Te Rau Tauwhare hunted for.

The people include all the usual suspects to be found in a booming gold-rush town. Miners, Maori's, business men, hard-working Chinese, sailors, prostitutes, drunks, adventurers and con-artists.

The beginning could be a little off-putting for some, as 12 Hokitika locals meet in secret to piece together their knowledge of certain mysterious and sinister events. A stranger enters their midst and becomes their sounding board.

I was mesmerised from start to finish. I was able to keep track of the long list of characters thanks to the chart in the front of the book. I loved how Catton weaved together all the various elements, revealing just enough juicy titbits to keep me guessing.

I enjoyed the sense of time & place and I loved how the ending revealed the love story hidden in the mystery.

The Booker award is given each year to a book, that in the judge's opinions, is the best novel published in the Commonwealth, for that year. They pride themselves on promoting quality literature for the average intelligent reader.

This is not high literature or literature with a capital L; but The Luminaries is entertaining, well-written & deserving of awards & praise.

The Luminaries also fulfills one of my countries visited (New Zealand) for Giraffe Days Around the World Challenge.


  1. A drawback of e-readers is the book with a gazillion characters - so hard to keep track of them without being able to just flip back. I like the idea of a list of characters but I'd probably have to print it out! ;-)

  2. You blogpage looks awesome, and hey -- I too, have this beast of a book on my TBR pile, weighing all the others down, near the top -- and can't wait to get to it. The Luminaries.

  3. Five years is impressive...Congrats! I decided not to tackle The Luminaries after several reviews mentioned the wordiness which generally just tends to annoy me. I am glad you enjoyed it though!

  4. This book was a Christmas gift that I haven't yet started to read. Your review makes me eager to do so. Congratulations on your five years, and on your new look!

  5. Anonymous26/1/14

    I have the book and was ( as you said) a bit put off at the beginning. The book now sits in the " to read pile"! After reading your review....time to blow the dust off the cover!

  6. very curious about this book. Thanks for the review.

    Also, I like the new open look.

  7. Anonymous27/1/14

    Nice look! I like your new background! I have a copy of The Luminaries, and have heard such good things, but I just haven't been in the mood for such a big book yet. I'm glad to hear that you liked it -- I'm sure I'll be tackling it soon!


  8. Well done updating your blog look- I think you're very brave changing backgrounds Brona! I have no idea whatsoever about banners. I was very interested in hearing your thoughts about The Luminaries. I browsed it in a shop and read a first introductory page- it was almost incomprehensible to me, but then the first half page or so read really well. I tend to buy books like this and they clutter up the house, and I never read them (I figure they can be for my dotage). I've resisted so far, mainly because I really don't have the time to devote to it right now- and won't for a very long time.

  9. Anonymous17/9/14

    I'm glad to read you enjoyed this novel. Maybe I might just give it a go one day...


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