Saturday, April 3, 2021

Eleanor Catton, "The Luminaries"

The Luminaries (2012) is a big, complicated story full of interesting characters that is mainly about the pleasure of telling big, complicated stories full of interesting characters. Eleanor Catton must be a fan of nineteenth-century fiction, because this book is resembles nothing written in the 21st century as much as it does Dickens and Thackeray. Her descriptions of people, in particular, are perfectly Victorian.

I picked this up because it managed to both win the Booker Prize – the longest book ever to do so – and be made into a mini-series. Plus it's set in New Zealand during the gold rush of the 1860s, something I know absolutely nothing about. (I did learn a little history.) I listened to the audiobook, read by Mark Meadows, which I enjoyed very much, and I wonder if the characters would have been as distinct in my mind without Meadows' voices, since there are so many.

There is some showy structural stuff, like, each chapter begins with an astrological note that I suppose might be important if you took the time to work them out. I gather the characters are supposed to be connected in some way to the planets and the signs of the zodiac. In the final section, each chapter is shorter than the one before, while each chapter title is longer than the one before, until in the final chapter they are the same length.  But I paid no attention to any of it and don't feel like I missed anything.

If you have the time, like say, you have a very long drive ahead of you, I recommend The Luminaries very highly. It has been a very pleasant companion for me.

1 comment:

Shadow said...

Ha. I just started reading it yesterday.