Eleanor Catton: The Luminaries


The latest addition to my website is Eleanor Catton‘s The Luminaries. It is on this year’s Man Booker longlist. Despite weighing in at 830 pages, it is not the longest book on the longlist (that honour goes to Richard House’s The Kills). I was particularly impressed with Catton’s first book, Rehearsal. However, while enjoying this latest book, I do not feel that it was of the same calibre as its predecessor. This book is a complicated, plot-driven novel, set in Hokitika, a small town on the West coat of New Zealand, during the 1866 gold rush in the area. Twelve men – nine of European origin, two Chinese and one Maori – meet in the lounge of the Crown Hotel to share information (they all have some individual piece of information to contribute) about recent events in the area, including the death of a loner who is found to have a stash of gold hidden in his hut, the rapid sale of his assets, the unexpected appearance of a woman claiming to be his widow as well as other events such as the apparent attempted suicide of a local prostitute and the disappearance of the most successful gold digger. They are joined by a newly arrived man, who also has some information to share. Half the book is taken up with the various stories and their background before we get both the backstory and subsequent events. It is a good read but I do not feel it as worthy as its predecessor.

4 thoughts on “Eleanor Catton: The Luminaries”

  1. I must say I love your blog and adore the range of your interest in literature. I’ve a degree in English literature from an Australian university and after living in Italy for a decade now I have acquired the joy of reading Italian writers in the original language. I particularly enjoy Sicilian literature from the 19th century.
    I am in the process of writing some posts on my travel blog about my favourite Sicilian writers.
    Your blog is a real inspiration.
    Thanks for enlightening me!

    • Thanks for your comments. I took a look at your blogs and they definitely seem interesting. I shall look out for your posts on Sicilian writers. We were in Sicily last year, as you might have seen from a blog post then, and really loved it. I studied italian at university and have loved the language, literature and country ever since. And I am glad to see that an Aussie follows New Zealand literature!

  2. Interesting to read your comments about The Luminaries. It makes me think I definitely should read Rehearsal as I found Luminaries to be a brilliant absorbing read so her first book must be that much better! I thought the characters in Luminaries were so individual and had such interesting back stories that once I understood them fully it was fascinating to see how their actions would play out against each other.

    • I think that you will find Rehearsal the better book. I agree that The Luminaries is a fine book but, it seems to me, to be the lesser of the two. Glad to see your new blog and I enjoyed your review of the Ozeki. Hope you are enjoying Harvest.


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