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Cover image for The luminaries
Format:
Title:
The luminaries
ISBN:
9780316074315
Publication:
New York, NY : Little, Brown and Co., 2013.
Physical Description:
830 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Contents:
A sphere within a sphere -- Auguries -- The house of self-undoing -- Paenga-wha-wha -- Weight and lucre -- The widow and the weeds -- Domicile -- The truth about Aurora -- Mutable Earth -- Matters of succession -- Orion sets when Scorpio rises -- The old moon in the young moon's arms.
Summary:
It is 1866, and Walter Moody has come to make his fortune upon the West Coast goldfields. On the night of his arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of twelve local men, who have met in secret to discuss a series of unsolved crimes. A wealthy man has vanished, a whore has tried to end her life, and an enormous sum of money has been discovered in the home of a luckless drunk. Moody is soon drawn into the mystery: a network of fates and fortunes that is as complex and exquisitely patterned as the night sky.
Holds:

Available:*

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FIC CATTON 2013
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FICTION - CATTON
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CATTON
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FICTION - CATTON
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Catton, E.
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FICTION CATTON
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Catton, E.
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Catton, E.
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FIC CATTON
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CATTON
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Catton, E.
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Summary

Summary

The bestselling, Man Booker Prize-winning novel hailed as "a true achievement. Catton has built a lively parody of a 19th-century novel, and in so doing created a novel for the 21st, something utterly new. The pages fly."--New York Times Book Review

It is 1866, and Walter Moody has come to stake his claim in New Zealand's booming gold rush. On the stormy night of his arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of 12 local men who have met in secret to discuss a series of unexplained events: a wealthy man has vanished, a prostitute has tried to end her life, and an enormous cache of gold has been discovered in the home of a luckless drunk. Moody is soon drawn into a network of fates and fortunes that is as complex and exquisitely ornate as the night sky.

Richly evoking a mid-nineteenth-century world of shipping, banking, and gold rush boom and bust, THE LUMINARIES is at once a fiendishly clever ghost story, a gripping page-turner, and a thrilling novelistic achievement. It richly confirms that Eleanor Catton is one of the brightest stars in the international literary firmament.


Author Notes

Eleanor Catton was born in Canada on September 24, 1985. She moved to New Zealand with her family when she was six years old. She studied English at the University of Canterbury and received a master's in creative writing at The Institute of Modern Letters, Victoria University of Wellington. Her debut novel, The Rehearsal, was published in 2008. Her second novel, The Luminaries, won the 2013 Man Booker Prize. In 2015 she ws made an Honorary Literary Fellows in the New Zealand Society of Authors' annual Waitangi Day Honours. In 2016, she was named as one of six, Arts New Zealand's Laureate Award winners.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

With a knack for conveying robust detail in an economy of straightforward language, Catton (The Rehearsal) untangles a dazzling knot of interwoven lives to explain how the town hermit, Crosbie Wells, wound up dead and the town whore, Anna Wetherell, drugged and disoriented. Her chosen setting-the New Zealand gold rush, and central figure-the fish-out-of-water Walter Moody, contribute to an atmosphere ripe for storytelling. And, from the beginning, this is the heart-pounding sport of the manifold suspects, witnesses, and possible accomplices. The shipping merchant Balfour tells of receiving politician Lauderback's tale of mischief, of involvement with one Lydia Wells...or Carver...or Greenway, she who is supposedly the wife of both the hermit Wells and his purportedly murderous brother, Francis Carver; and she who represents the planetary force of desire. Lauderback's recounting of lascivious involvement with her gives way to the story of the thug Carver overtaking Lauderback's vessel the Godspeed and setting the politician up for a fall, which gives way to an Irish Free Methodist minister overhearing the divulgence and adding his bit: he attended to both the whore and the deceased hermit. His story opens onto another, which inspires another, and so forth. With a calculated old-world syntax by which the tamest of swear words are truncated, Catton artfully restrains her verse, and she occasionally breaks the fourth wall-reminding readers that this story is about, above all things, the excitement of storytelling. (Oct.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Kirkus Review

A layered, mannered, beguiling yarn, longlisted for the Booker Prize, by New Zealander novelist Catton. When Walter Moody arrives on a "wild shard of the Coast"--that of the then-remote South Island--in late January 1866, he discovers that strange doings are afoot: A local worthy has disappeared, a local belle de nuit has tried to do herself in, the town drunk turns out to possess a fortune against all odds, and the whole town is mumbling, murmuring and whispering like Sweethaven in Robert Altman's Popeye. Indeed, when Moody walks into his hotel on that--yes, dark and stormy--night, he interrupts a gathering of 12 local men who are trying to get to the bottom of the matter. Moody, as it turns out, is trained as a lawyer--"By training only," he demurs, "I have not yet been called to the Bar"--but, like everyone else, has been lured to the wild by the promise of gold. It is gold in all its glory that fuels this tale, though other goods figure, too, some smuggled in by the very phantom bark that has deposited Moody on the island. Catton's long opening, in which the narrative point of view ping-pongs among these 13 players and more, sets the stage for a chronologically challenging tale in which mystery piles atop mystery. Catton writes assuredly and with just the right level of flourish: "He was thinking of Sook Yongsheng, lying cold on the floor inside--his chin and throat smeared with boot-black, his eyebrows thickened, like a clown." She blends elements of Victorian adventure tale, ghost story, detective procedural la The Moonstone and shaggy dog tale to produce a postmodern tale to do Thomas Pynchon or Julio Cortzar proud; there are even echoes of Calvino in the author's interesting use of both astronomy and astrology. The possibilities for meta cleverness and archness are endless, and the whole business is too smart by half, but Catton seems mostly amused by her concoction, and that's just right. About the only fault of the book is its unending length: There's not an ounce of flab in it, but it's still too much for ordinary mortals to take in. There's a lovely payoff after the miles of twists and turns. It's work getting there but work of a thoroughly pleasant kind.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


New York Review of Books Review

"the luminaries," Eleanor Catton's remarkable second novel - the winner of this year's Man Booker Prize - is a lot of things, and I mean a lot, but above all, perhaps, it is a love story, one that takes all of 826 pages to truly arrive. And it's not even a novel in the normal sense, but rather a mass confabulation that evaporates in front of us, an astrological divination waning like the moon, the first section 360 pages long (or are those degrees?), the last a mere sliver. But it's a sliver that delivers. As Catton's structural sphere wanes, the growing darkness reveals a star scape that grows and turns and folds in on itself, mystery upon enigma, lie upon misunderstanding, coincidence upon conspiracy, all of it complete with astrological charts I was unable to understand but still loved to study. A score of major characters take turns as protagonist. They headline in set pieces and protracted scenes, suffer shootings and poisonings, enact strategic whoring, survive storms at sea, find treasure sewn in dresses, lose the treasure, find it again. We meet estranged brothers, meddling clergymen, swindling magnates, investigative journalists, Maori wise men, confidence gamers, Chinese prospectors (speaking in their own language). Finally we fall for those lovers I mentioned, the two of them separated by fate and the machinations of men, and oh, how we wish them well amid disaster. It's a lot of fun, like doing a Charlotte Brontë-themed crossword puzzle while playing chess and Dance Dance Revolution on a Bongo Board. Some readers will delight in the challenge, others may despair. I went both ways: always lost in admiration for this young New Zealander's vast knowledge and narrative skill, sometimes lost in her game, wishing at times for more warmth, delighted by her old-school chapter headings ("In which a stranger arrives . . ." "In which Quee Long brings a complaint before the law . . ."), puzzled by her astrology, Googling everything twice and three times, scratching my head, laughing out loud, sighing with pleasure at sudden connections, flipping back pages and chapters and whole sections for rereadings, forging ahead with excitement renewed. The setting, circa 1866, is the gold rush town of Hokitika, in the wild southwest of New Zealand, a place where the Maori had long sought greenstone. A type of jade, as a quick Internet search reveals, and holy. It took European settlers to notice the unholy gold, great chunks of it wedged between boulders in the Hokitika River, and more buried everywhere. The town is only a few years old, but already there are mansions on the hillsides. And a jail in progress. A busy courthouse. And a newspaper. Ships coming in and out of a treacherous harbor daily, sometimes foundering. Saloons in hotels alongside brothels and banks. The story opens, naturally, on a dark and stormy night, with the shaken seaborne arrival of one Walter Moody, a Scotsman trained in law but not yet a barrister, nearly 28 years old (Eleanor Catton's current age, as it happens), here to make his fortune, running away from bad fortune, too. Even frazzled, he's very aware of the impression he makes, and he manages it carefully: cool and collected, trustworthy. Shipboard he has seen something he can't explain, a specter so horrible he can hardly bear to recall it. Safe at the scruffy Crown Hotel, he seeks refuge in the smoking room and happens upon a meeting in progress, 12 men with names as Dickensian as his own: Frost and Clinch and Mannering, to name a few, even a minister named Devlin. But each has a glancing connection to some aspect of an unstated crime. They meet to get their stories straight, to put the pieces together, to effect a happy ending, to protect their interests joint and several. The dazzling narration, arch as Jane Austen's, looks into Moody's level head as he endeavors to discover what's going on, and whether the apparition he's seen is part of the puzzle. He's Sherlock Holmes, he's Joseph Conrad's rational man. A conspiracy is in progress, and Walter Moody prides himself on his grasp of people. Drinks are poured, the billiards table goes quiet. One thing is not in doubt: A tale is about to be told. Thomas Balfour, a shipping agent, takes center stage, becomes the mind of the story. Our omniscient narrator lets us listen to him awhile, then apologizes for the man's poor storytelling and offers to paraphrase, help him get to the point. This deft strategy pushes Walter Moody aside and eventually allows glimpses into the minds of all the men in the room, with their plentiful secrets and curious interlockings. We struggle along with Moody to put the facts in a line. Each man has a piece of the puzzle. Each is innocent, each is guilty. No one is simple, everyone's got motives, all construct their own moral universes, each absolving himself. A hermit has died in a remote cottage on a muddy claim. A fortune has gone missing. A politician seems to be involved, also a ship's captain, also a battered prostitute, also a Chinese indentured worker, also a stoical Maori greenstone hunter, Te Rau Tauwhare ("His face was tattooed in a way that reminded Balfour of the wind patterns on a map"). Moreover, Emery Staines, a well-liked and much admired young prospector, the richest man in town, has disappeared. And Lydia Wells has arrived, claiming to be the hermit's wife. That shambling old fool? He had a wife? She's been a madam, but she wants to clean up her act, open a séance parlor. Miners believe in omens, and any guidance they can find will do. A lady's got to make a living. AS THE STORY proceeds, we feel the keys falling out of our hands over and over again, the mystery deepening. Walter Moody drifts offstage. We're left to do his job ourselves, at least till he returns and sets us straight. The men of the conspiracy seek one another out, and tidbits of information emerge in their hurried conversations, which take place all over town. People who seem likable suddenly do despicable things. People who seem terrible suddenly offer kindness. A poor and sickly prostitute, Anna Wetherell, clearly high on opium, is jailed despite grievous injuries. The jailer, Shepard (note the name), is one of those black-and-white thinkers: right is right, and wrong is wrong. We've judged her along with him. But through the eyes of the grabby hotelier named Clinch, one of Anna's many admirers, we see that she is a fallen angel - that staple of Victorian literature - and we're prematurely relieved when Lydia Wells offers her asylum. Lydia will train her in the medium's art. Together, they'll try to resurrect the spirit of Emery Staines, a show everyone wants to see, perhaps most of all Anna, who is in love with this sweet and optimistic wanderer. And before long the story begins to revolve around the star-crossed couple. They, as it will turn out, are the luminaries (or, in non-astrological parlance, the sun and moon) of this monumental book, a pair with a genuinely mystical connection: when one is wounded, the other bleeds. "The Luminaries" is a true achievement. Catton has built a lively parody of a 19th-century novel, and in so doing created a novel for the 21st, something utterly new. The pages fly, the great weight of the book shifting quickly from right hand to left, a world opening and closing in front of us, the human soul revealed in all its conflicted desperation. I mean glory. And as for the length, surely a book this good could never be too long. Each man has a piece of the puzzle. Each is innocent, each is guilty. No one is simple. BILL ROORBACH'S newest book is "Life Among Giants," a novel. He blogs at billanddavescocktailhour.com.


Library Journal Review

Step into the world of 1886 and New Zealand's goldfields in this Man Booker Prize-winning novel by Catton (The Rehearsal). The plot is complex and nonlinear, often folding back on itself, or, in the author's own words, "moving with the pattern of the heavens." No brief summary can do justice to this tale of more than 20 intertwined characters that begins with a young stranger arriving in town from Scotland and accidentally joining a clandestine meeting of 12 men gathered to analyze unsolved crimes in their frontier community. Within days, a wealthy man mysteriously vanishes, a prostitute attempts suicide, and a fortune in gold is uncovered in the rundown cabin of a reclusive alcoholic. Crime, deception, intrigue, and even love have a part, but this is a Victorian novel written in the 21st century, and the author takes her time weaving her tale, so much of the mystery is not revealed until the last 150 pages. VERDICT Not for everyone. At 800-plus pages, this very long, dense, and intricately crafted novel requires a commitment to finish, but readers will be rewarded for their efforts.-Shaunna E. Hunter, Hampden-Sydney Coll. Lib., VA (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.