2013 Shortlisted: The Lumniaries by Eleanor Catton #4*

The_LuminariesRating: 2*
The Luminaries
A Novel by Eleanor Catton
2013 / 848 pages

So several years have passed by. I’m still sitting in my paisley moth-eaten rocking chair, my eyes are resisting sleep, but they are growing leaden and I may have to succumb.

I am certain more excitement and intrigue will come, but for now, and for what feels like the past ten years, I’ve been in this chair of mine reading and reading and reading Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries. Our protagonist, Walter Moody (so similar to Walter Mitty, I can’t help this is intentional) is still in the barhall where he has, one blustery night at the beginning of the novel, unwittingly walked into and disturbed a clandestine meeting, where suspicion is the drink of choice that evening. The seemingly diverse group is  discussing a series of recent crimes. Naturally, when Moody blows in, they are suspicious and go about a tremendous show to simply ask of his origins and pretend they are simply bar-goers, including the priest in the corner. Moody has arrived in New Zealand in 1866 to make his fortune in gold. He harbors serious anger towards his father, who had left him and his mother in a situation less than ideal (according to him). When he discovers his own brother was part of the ruse, Moody decides he is going to show them what’s what. He is cocky and elitist and views his situation as such, you can’t help but dislike him.

Even though the chapter header reads something like “In which….Moody disturbs….and they pretend…” (I only have it digitally and I already deleted it from my Kindle, so my apologies for the weak paraphrasing.) Catton then goes on in painstaking detail, using every single word in her arsenal, to expound on the chapter header, explaining absolutely every single detail, whether important or not.

Is it lovely writing? Yes. Is it pretentious? Indubitably. 848 pages of it.

*But the truth is, I didn’t get very far at all. I am not a fair judge here; I realize that. And there have been books that I loathed in the beginning, stuck through and was grateful for it. But, life is too short and there are a lot of great reads vying for my attention right now. So I put down The Luminaries. I really did want to appreciate this young writer’s efforts. It has all the ingredients for a splendid read, but instead it seems she put them together in an approximation of a really good book. That said, people are loving the novel. For them, they have my respect for sitting through it. I on the other hand, am getting out of my musty rocker and moving on. Otherwise I may die with only a new vocabulary to show for it.

Semi-Review by The Well Read Fish

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One comment

  1. I loved Catton’s last book – 250 pages – but I could not get through The Luminaries. Agreed, that it is wonderfully written, but it is just too long!

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