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The Luminaries: A Novel
by Eleanor Catton

Published: 2013-10-15
Hardcover : 848 pages
18 members reading this now
17 clubs reading this now
7 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 1 of 2 members
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 ...
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Introduction

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.

Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.

Excerpt

MERCURY IN SAGITTARIUS

In which a stranger arrives in Hokitika; a secret council is disturbed; Walter Moody conceals his most recent memory; and Thomas Balfour begins to tell a story.

The twelve men congregated in the smoking room of the Crown Hotel gave the impression of a party accidentally met. From the variety of their comportment and dress – frock coats, tailcoats, Norfolk jackets with buttons of horn, yellow moleskin, cambric, and twill – they might have been twelve strangers on a railway car, each bound for a separate quarter of a city that possessed fog and tides enough to divide them; indeed, the studied isolation of each man as he pored over his paper, or leaned forward to tap his ashes into the grate, or placed the splay of his hand upon the baize to take his shot at billiards, conspired to form the very type of bodily silence that occurs, late in the evening, on a public railway – deadened here not by the slur and clunk of the coaches, but by the fat clatter of the rain. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

From the Man Booker Prize Reading Guide:

At the start of the book Walter Moody stumbles across a tense meeting between twelve local men and is entrusted with their secrets. What do you make of these men? Do they tell Walter the whole truth, or are their stories distorted by external
loyalties, self-interest and their individual character traits?

The Luminaries is set in New Zealand during the nineteenth century. How does Catton give you a sense of the story taking place in a different era? And how does the novel compare to other historical fiction you have read?

Astrology is a prominent theme in the book. At the start of each chapter, a chart depicting the twelve men’s star signs and an epitaph forewarns the reader of ensuing events. To what extent are the characters determined by their star signs
and the complementary planetary movements?

Following the court scene, do you feel that each character has received their just desserts? Were any characters let off lightly or unjustly punished, and if so why?

Was the novel’s ending a shock or inevitable? And how does the outcome change your opinion of free will and determinism?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

No notes at this time.

Book Club Recommendations

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
 
 
  "Long with a slow start"by Lynda B. (see profile) 07/29/14

This book has won a big literary award and may win more, but it's not an easy read. In fact, I'm still working on it - and, often, it does feel like work. The set-up is brilliant. However, the first... (read more)

 
  "Prize-winning? Yuck!"by Yvonne O. (see profile) 02/25/14

So many gimmicks at work in this novel and for no apparent reason. All the people I know who "love" the book still can't explain the vast majority of them, either. Hideously long and awful.

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