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The Luminariesby Eleanor Catton
2013 Man Booker Prize Winner
Synopses & Reviews
From the author of The Rehearsal and shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, a breathtaking feat of storytelling where everything is connected, but nothing is as it seems....
It is 1866, and 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 unsolved crimes. 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 patterned as the night sky.
Eleanor Catton was only 22 when she wrote The Rehearsal, which Adam Ross in the New York Times Book Review praised as "a wildly brilliant and precocious first novel" and Joshua Ferris called "a mesmerizing, labyrinthine, intricately patterned and astonishingly original novel." The Luminaries amply confirms that early promise, and secures Catton's reputation as one of the most dazzling and inventive young writers at work today.
"With a knack for conveying robust detail in an economy of straightforward language, Catton (The Rehearsal) untangles a dazzling knot of interwoven lives to explain how the town hermit, Crosbie Wells, wound up dead and the town whore, Anna Wetherell, drugged and disoriented. Her chosen setting the New Zealand gold rush, and central figure the fish-out-of-water Walter Moody, contribute to an atmosphere ripe for storytelling. And, from the beginning, this is the heart-pounding sport of the manifold suspects, witnesses, and possible accomplices. The shipping merchant Balfour tells of receiving politician Lauderback's tale of mischief, of involvement with one Lydia Wells...or Carver...or Greenway, she who is supposedly the wife of both the hermit Wells and his purportedly murderous brother, Francis Carver; and she who represents the planetary force of desire. Lauderback's recounting of lascivious involvement with her gives way to the story of the thug Carver overtaking Lauderback's vessel the Godspeed and setting the politician up for a fall, which gives way to an Irish Free Methodist minister overhearing the divulgence and adding his bit: he attended to both the whore and the deceased hermit. His story opens onto another, which inspires another, and so forth. With a calculated old-world syntax by which the tamest of swear words are truncated, Catton artfully restrains her verse, and she occasionally breaks the fourth wall reminding readers that this story is about, above all things, the excitement of storytelling." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"The Luminaries is 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." Bill Roorbach, New York Times Book Review
"A finely wrought fun house of a novel. Enjoy the ride." Chris Bohjalian, The Washington Post
"An 848-page dish so fresh that one continues to gorge, long past being crammed full of goodness. Nearly impossible to put down, it's easily the best novel I've read this year." Mike Fischer, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
"To call it daringly ambitious in its reach and scope doesn't really do it justice....There is a ludic quality in all this that is infectious: You pick up the author's joy in her enterprise." Martin Rubin, The Wall Street Journal
About the Author
Born in Canada and raised in New Zealand, Eleanor Catton, 27, completed an MA in Creative Writing at Victoria University in 2007 and won the Adam Prize in Creative Writing for her first novel, The Rehearsal, which was also long-listed for the Orange Prize and short-listed for the Dylan Thomas Prize. She studied at the Iowa Writers' Workshop as the recipient of the 2008 Glenn Schaeffer Fellowship. She lives in New Zealand.
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