Rating: 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.
Rating: 5 The Luminaries A Novel by Eleanor Catton 2013 / 848 Pages
Underneath, is there a golden soul?
In which Aaron learns to never judge a book by its cover, not to be swayed by first impressions, and marvels over the wonder of self-imposed story-telling structures.
Set in 1860’s, at the height of the New Zealand gold rush, Eleanor Catton’s impressive sophomore effort is so much more than the sum of its visual parts. Weighing in at a massive 848 pages and featuring an absolutely horrendous dust jacket that screams “Need more Jane Austin-esque Victorian romance in your life?” far more than it does “Here’s an intricately layered, complex murder mystery for your brain to devour!,” the way in which The Luminaries is packaged and presented by both its UK and US publishers doesn’t beg one to instantly read it so much as it dares them to even bother with opening its cover in the first place.
Reading the synopses of each of the 2013 Booker Long Listed novels made it very difficult to choose which book to read first. At first glance each book appeared to have a very good opportunity to not only make it to the short list but also win out right. Slowly picking through the list using various means of choice including random number generator I finally picked up The Luminaries. I am very glad I did.
The 2013 Booker Conversations is a series of in-depth, spoiler-free discussions between BookerMarks bloggers about this year’s nominated titles. Kicking things off, Aaron Westerman from Typographical Era and Michelle Williams from A Reader and a Rider discuss Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries.
Aaron Westerman is Opinionless. Except of course when it comes to books or movies. He’s the co-founder of Typographical Era where he blogs on a regular basis about the latest in translated literature, foreign cinema, and more.
Michelle Williams is an avid “reader” of books and a “rider” of bicycles. When she is not cycling you can catch her reading and when she is not reading, well, she is probably pedaling about somewhere. Her blog, A Reader and A Rider journals her reviews of literary fiction.
Set in the 1860’s during the height of the New Zealand gold rush, Eleanor Catton’s astrologically-inspired novel The Luminaries, is a wonderfully vivid piece of historical fiction that centers around death of drunkard, the disappearance of wealthy young man, the addictions of a prostitute, and a fortune in stolen gold that may or may not bind them all together.
Rating: 4.5 Mister Pip A Novel by Llloyd Jones 2006 / 272 Pages
The Setup: In a novel that is at once intense, beautiful, and fablelike, Lloyd Jones weaves a transcendent story that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the power of narrative to transform our lives.
On a copper-rich tropical island shattered by war, where the teachers have fled with most everyone else, only one white man chooses to stay behind: the eccentric Mr. Watts, object of much curiosity and scorn, who sweeps out the ruined schoolhouse and begins to read to the children each day from Charles Dickens’s classic Great Expectations. (from the hardcover edtion)