Sunday, 3 November 2013

The Luminaries, by Eleanor Catton

2.5 stars

Show me a book that clocks in at over 800 pages, has a historical setting along with a vivid sense of character and place, reads like a 19th century novel and stars prostitutes, politicians and prospectors, a thirst for gold and opium and a mystery involving murder, missing fortunes and false identities, and I go all round-eyed in anticipation.

This, then, really ought to have been my kind of book crack as it features all of the above and more, with a cleverly convoluted plot that's revealed to us in flashes over the course of the book as the many people on the periphery put their heads together to get to the bottom of the vanishing of a wealthy man, the apparent attempted suicide of a prostitute and the death of a reclusive drunk (posthumously found to have a hoard of gold in his hovel), to which they all seem to be connected.

Turns out though that this sometimes struggled to keep my attention and that the much talked about cleverness - to do with the astrological charts and whatnots that adorned the beginnings of each chapter and that apparently had a bearing on the text - was entirely lost on me. My knowledge of astrology runs no deeper than knowing I'm a Taurus, and I'm not particularly interested in broadening that knowledge either (as I'm of the mind that it's hokum) and so I'm quite sure that I've missed something in this reading.

Having neither loved nor loathed this, I'm probably not destined to remember much about it either.


  1. I've been meaning to read it but truth be told, this book scares me... I downloaded a sample on Kindle, and it wasn't encouraging. Seeing how you like it though I'm thinking I should just get on to it and read like at least 100 pages before forming deeper opinions.

    1. I wouldn't go so far as to say I really liked it, but plenty of people did so it's always worth a go. Good luck if you do decide to jump in!