The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

BOOK REVIEW: The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton


The Luminaries

For although a man is judged by his actions, by what he has said and done, a man judges himself by what he is willing to do, by what he might have said, or might have done – a judgement that is necessarily hampered, not only by the scope and limits of his imagination, but by the ever-changing measure of his doubt and self-esteem.’ (Page 142)

I kept putting off reading this book, mainly because of its enormity, but also because it was the 2013 Man Booker Prize Winner, and sometimes prize winners, like that of Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, although brilliant (which makes perfect sense being prize winners and all!), often require a vast amount of brain power to get through.

I did not, however, have this problem with The Luminaries once I started reading it. I mean, it is a mystery so of course I kept trying to put all the pieces together, but knowing that the answers were coming just made me want to keep reading. It was addictive reading at its best because not only was it a page-turner, but it was also beautifully written in the style of some of the classics that I love, which is a feat in itself since Catton’s writing felt as authentic as that of Austen and the Bröntes whilst not having lived through the time period herself.

Some have criticised that point exactly stating their preference to read such novels written by people who were alive at the time, but I find that kind of statement rather ridiculous, unimaginative and restricting and not really a worthy argument at all so I’ll say no more about it.

The Luminaries is the kind of book that I think many literary authors would read and think, gosh I wish I could have written that. It is so complex with a multitude of characters involved, yet so simple in the way the story all comes about and is explained.

There are so many great things about this book that my lack of vocabulary will simply not do it any justice so I won’t say too much except that if you endeavour to read this book then ensure you know what you are in for.

I read quite a range of genres and enjoy them all for different reasons and in different ways so I knew what to expect to an extent. But if you pick up this book because it is a prize winner yet your reading habits are more akin to popular fiction or crime/thriller then it’s quite possible that you won’t like it.

If, on the other hand, you enjoy a good story that isn’t always about a big lead up to a magical, exciting and/or explosive ending but rather a story that observes its characters and their connections with others while uncovering small amounts of information at a time, then you might just find The Luminaries to be as brilliant as I did.