The Luminaries

The LuminariesThe Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Phew, I feel like I’ve just finished a marathon, The Luminaries is one extremely long book. I listened to it as an audiobook, I started it last October and took several long breaks from it, which may not have helped my comprehension of it. The Luminaries is set in 19th century New Zealand, during the gold rush and it tells the story of a large cast of inhabitants of a small, coastal gold town. There’s the newly arrived, the Maori, the Chinese men, the prostitute, the politician, the newspaper man, the chemist, the shipping agent, the priest, the banker, the prison warder, the hermit, the widow, the ex con, I’ve probably forgotten many. The story starts with the death of the hermit and the disappearance of a well to do young gold digger and it’s all extremely convoluted. So convoluted in fact, that by the end of part one, one of the characters spends a bit of time, effectively explaining to the reader what just happened!

I am sad to say that the majority of this book was a drag and was almost painful to get to and I would have happily given it two stars and that would have been almost generous, except most of the last quarter of the book really picked up and I actually, to my surprise found myself enjoying it. There’s a lot of dialogue in the book and whilst some it, particularly in the first three quarters dragged, the dialogue in the last quarter was at times absolutely wonderful. This was however aided by a very very good audiobook narrator (Mark Meadows), who did all the many many voices and accents wonderfully. I also found myself appreciating the plot too, it was quite clever but I still feel like I could have done with one of those guide books to explain it all a bit more simply for me and I still have a feeling not all the questions were answered.

Even saying though that I really liked the last quarter, even that dragged on too long, like a movie which has what appears to be a big final sequence and then goes on for another further dull half hour. But still, I think I’m glad I stuck with it but I’m not sure I’d ever recommend it to anybody.

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