The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton

Well, I did it. I finished this massive weight of a novel. Finally. I feel as though I have been through a heavy storm and barely survived, coming out at the other side all sullied and muddied and muddled. I can’t shake the feeling that I have missed something central and important in this book. I’m not certain whether this is a product of the fact that it took me so long to read or whether there was indeed something else that I was supposed to gather …

I quite liked Catton’s structure, the way she prefaced each chapter with a little blurb. That helped me navigate my way through the various characters and the complexity of the plots and sub plots and sub sub plots. I did find though that by the end I was a bit over these blurbs and really just wanted a sense of resolution which I am still not sure that I have.

I was unfamiliar with the era that Catton describes in this book and I found this context fascinating and enlightening. It is clear that a large volume of formidable research has gone into constructing this very true to life account of the gold rush and life in New Zealand in the 1860s. I dare to say that this alone makes this book worth reading – especially for the historically naive, like me!

I confess that I struggled enormously with all the celestial references and if the book wasn’t so daunting and large and hard to read the first time, I would probably read it again just to pay closer attention to the phases of the moon and their significance … For there is clearly some significance to this and I expect that it contributes to the essence of the book itself.

In short, I am glad I read it, if only because of the Everest scaling feeling that I now have. However, I am not sure that I actually enjoyed it and I am even more uncertain that I would recommend it to all readers. I won’t deny that it is prize worthy and that it represents a great feat of accomplishment on so many levels for the author, but it left me wanting.


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