TITLE: The Luminaries
AUTHOR: Eleanor Catton
PUBLISHER: Granta Books
GENRE: Mystery, Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction
RATING: 3.5/5 Stars
It is 1866, and Walter Moody has come to make his fortune upon the New Zealand goldfields. On the night of his arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of twelve local men, who have met in secret to discuss a series of unsolved crimes. A wealthy man has vanished, a whore 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 patterned as the night sky.
What I Liked:
- Eleanor Catton is a wonderful writer. The style and language that she uses are very readable and clever, and made for some lovely quotes. Catton has a really great talent and I can see why both this book and her debut novel won or were nominated for so many awards.
- The world-building impressed me so much. Seriously, a lot of thought, research and context went into this one and I can't believe how well imagined it was! She was consistent in her factual knowledge and I think it was this that I appreciated and loved about the novel most of all. I really felt like Catton had done her best to build the most believable world that she could based on our knowledge of the time period.
- The characters were both believable and memorable. There were a lot of characters in this story, and to my surprise, I found that I remembered each and every one very well. I remembered who they were, how they were involved, their past actions in previous chapters and I was shocked that I did. It wasn't just down to a good memory, Catton's characterisation helped a lot.
What I Disliked:
- I felt like this book missed out something pretty basic, considering the hype that surrounds it. The plot-line is extremely basic, and for me, was not gripping at all! A simple story is not necessarily bad, but for most of this book I found myself bored and easily distracted. I was not hooked in the slightest! It wasn't until the last quarter that I found that the pace picked up and I actually became invested in what I was reading. It just all felt a bit slow before that.
- I mentioned that the character's were realistic and easily remembered. That doesn't mean I liked them though. For the most part I found them annoying, and their constant reckless and stupid decision-making frustrated me a lot. They constantly broke promises, revealed secrets and trusted the wrong people and it felt like it was all just an attempt to stall the plot rather than add to it. I have a huge hatred for silly decisions in books, but I can forgive them if they are necessary for the plot to progress. In this case however, I felt that they could easily have been cut out and save on some time and pages.
- I didn't just find unnecessary character decisions. I did find a few elements to the story felt unneeded and didn't add to or further the plot in any significant way. The actual references to the title, and the horoscopes, were so well-researched but they were hardly referenced and I felt like they were just placed there with no real connection or reason behind it. Some plot details just didn't feel like they really contributed to the overriding story and I found myself skimming a lot.
So this book lived up to some, but not all of my expectations. I felt that it had some beautifully written areas and some promising elements to it. But it was missing something that to me is key in a book, which was a plot that actually gripped me. I felt that the pacing improved towards the end, but that is far too late in my opinion. I wanted to be hooked from start to finish and I just wasn't!