Book Review: The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

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The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

Title: The Luminaries

Author: Eleanor Catton

Genre: Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Mystery

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

Published: October 15, 2013

Page Amount: 834 pages

Blurb From Goodreads: It is 1866, and young Walter Moody has come to make his fortune upon the New Zealand goldfields. On the stormy night of his arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of twelve 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 fortune 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 ornate as the night sky. Richly evoking a mid-nineteenth-century world of shipping, banking, and gold rush boom and bust, The Luminaries is a brilliantly constructed, fiendishly clever ghost story and a gripping page-turner.

Why Read: There are many reasons why I read ‘The Luminaries’, but certainly the most important one, was that Book Riot recommended it to me. If you’ve been reading my book reviews (and you’re aware I’ve been off by 4 days now), then you know that I’m absolutely enchanted by that podcast, book blog and any other fun parts they’ve added in. The Luminaries was I book I had heard discussed for months, so I was more than ready to pick it up. And not to be precocious, the cover was very intriguing, and like all – I wanted to see what the buzz was about.

Review: If there’s one thing I’m a sucker for in a book, it’s anything that looks long, complicated, and riveting. I didn’t even have to finish the synopsis of ‘The Luminaries’ before I knew it was a book I would enjoy reading. Perhaps you could argue that I had already made up my mind to enjoy the book before I had picked up it and that this review is simply hogwash… but getting through those 834 pages was no easy-brainer. If I hadn’t liked it, I simply would have stopped.

The Luminaries was, for me, one of those books that I will think of as the epitome of a mystery novel. It had all the puzzles pieces, whether we’re talking about the sketchy characters, the wronged woman, or the mistaken (or simply taken) identity crisis. But what it did with them was what really made the book special. I wasn’t prepared for some of the characters to show up, and once they did: I had to do an entire reevaluation of what I thought the mystery was even about.

Let’s put it this way: by the time I finished reading the book: I was completely certain I knew what the ending would be… and I was wrong.

Not one of my prouder moments, I’ll admit.

But all the same, maybe it was the writing style and the new territory of New Zealand. Did you know there were gold mines in New Zealand in the 1800s? I certainly didn’t. The fact that it took me a chapter or two just to settle into this new sort of environment gave the book all the persuasion it needed to send me rocketing into the story. There were plots, twists, turns, ultimately a roaring “WHAT”, and then a sort of uneasy restlessness. Yeah, it really won’t make sense until you’ve read it.

Characters… I kill myself even with that question. Because there were so many! Not in the fashion that I couldn’t keep track of each one to the next, but in the sense that I felt somehow interested in each one because they all had backstories and conflicting goals or attempts to get their way. Catton wouldn’t have had to even write a plot if she had just written the characters and placed them in the same town.

Moody, who supposedly is the main character (once you get around the fact that half the book is leading up to the big present-day climax, is an ironically *moody* and sort of sketchy character who I loved to love and yet feel very hesitant about despite his obvious innocence.

Basically what I’m saying is: read the book. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like mystery or historical fiction or even literary fiction. It’s an interesting read which will blow your mind, I assure you – and make you not study for finals. That promise is guaranteed.

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Review Coming Soon: Istanbul Passage! 

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