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The Luminaries

by

The Luminaries Cover

ISBN13: 9780316074315
ISBN10: 0316074314
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Awards

2013 Man Booker Prize Winner

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

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.

Review:

"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.

Review:

"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

Review:

"A finely wrought fun house of a novel. Enjoy the ride." Chris Bohjalian, The Washington Post

Review:

"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

Review:

"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.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

Coni, February 25, 2014 (view all comments by Coni)
Set in 1865-1866 in New Zealand during the gold rush, 13 men try to solve a bunch of local mysteries, involving a opium-addicted whore, a missing prospector, a recently deceased man with a wife that no one knew about and a scarred man that no one likes. This is a long book, but it is necessary to cover all the story taking place between those men and all those other people.

I had no idea New Zealand had a gold rush so that was educational. This book is written like a Victorian-era book with each chapter giving a teaser about what it will be about. It is a bit like Charles Dickens without all the annoying Dickens bits (no unnecessary words!).

It seemed to have a bit of a slow start but once one of the men started sharing his part of the tale to a guy, it picks up and doesn't stop. Hearing people telling their versions of stories and piecing it all together into a much larger story was fun. There was some astrological stuff that didn't make much sense to me and wasn't really explained so I skipped over that. I still enjoyed the overall story.

When some of the backstory was pieced together by the men, the story shifts to real time where you learn even more about what happened from the other players. After that, the story wraps up with parts that the men never knew. It was a nice summary of the entire story, even though I still had a few unanswered questions at the end. Did I miss the answers in this 800+ book or were that not answered? Hard to tell.
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Kara Shamy, October 17, 2013 (view all comments by Kara Shamy)
The Luminaries is, I think, a historic literary achievement. As I wrote in an online review on October 13: "If it doesn't win this year's Man Booker Prize, you'll be able to knock me over with a feather. Yeah, that's the most polite way to put it." I have had no feather related falls obviously. I cannot wait to read this novel again. It's a pleasure to read, and it bears substantial scholarly scrutiny as a work of literary art.

I've commended novelists for their ambition in some of my previous reviews. Eleanor Catton's ambition is revealed first by the somewhat abstract astrological structure she sets up for her work -- it's the kind of move a book meant merely to entertain does not dare. It reminds me somewhat of James Joyce's modeling his masterwork about June 16th in the life of Dedalus and Bloom, Ulysses, after Homer's Odyssey. While Catton's pretense does not match that of Joyce, her execution of her work places it squarely within the same tradition of masterful examples of the novel.

Also, as a sidenote, I found that some of Catton's prose reminded me of Joyce's in the penultimate catechism-type episode in Ulysses. I did not do a close side-by-side comparison, but that was the impression that jumped to the front of my mind as I read. In its scope and achievement, this work also calls to mind George Eliot's Middlemarch.

To speak more of The Luminaries on its own terms, as really I ought:
--There's poetry in this prose; it's everywhere evocative.
--The narrative voice is free and easy; Catton doesn't give the sense that she's trying too hard. To write such a complex and masterful work so confidently blows my mind. If I were to characterize her narrative style altogether in a few words I would choose: playful, with an affectionate disposition to reader and the narrative itself.
--Like other great novels I've mentioned in this review, it unites macroscopic and microscopic views of its subject matter and does so in a circumscribed setting in terms of time and place. This focuses the range of detail and ultimately epic effect of the work.

The Luminaries is resplendent; you won't want to miss it, dear readers. All you English majors, dust off your rigorous analytical skills, and all you lovers of literature, dust off that part of your heart that feels great books. Some classic literature is happenin' here!

I hope this helps; thanks for reading my ideas. Please be advised I read an electronic galley by generous permission of the publisher Little, Brown and Company.
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(9 of 10 readers found this comment helpful)
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780316074315
Author:
Catton, Eleanor
Publisher:
Little Brown and Company
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Publication Date:
20131031
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Language:
English

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Product details pages Little Brown and Company - English 9780316074315 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "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.
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "A finely wrought fun house of a novel. Enjoy the ride."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "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."
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