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The Luminaries

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  75,579 ratings  ·  8,395 reviews
Librarian's note: An alternate cover edition can be found here

It is 1866, and young 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 unexplained events: A wealthy man has vanished, a prostitute has tried to end
Hardcover, 848 pages
Published October 15th 2013 by Little, Brown and Company (first published August 24th 2013)
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Popular Answered Questions
Titus G In the court case, the value of the gold is exactly 4096 pounds.
4096 is 2 to the power of 12 and there are 12 chapters.
As Mark comments, the structure…more
In the court case, the value of the gold is exactly 4096 pounds.
4096 is 2 to the power of 12 and there are 12 chapters.
As Mark comments, the structure is a gimmick but one which creates a sense of urgency especially when you approach the end of the book. As each chapter halves in length, it gives the impression that the story is advancing more quickly. (less)
Bekki Pate I'm struggling through it now - on page 130 and I'm finding that I'm reading other books just to break up the boredom of it all. I really can't see ho…moreI'm struggling through it now - on page 130 and I'm finding that I'm reading other books just to break up the boredom of it all. I really can't see how this became so popular.(less)

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Average rating 3.72  · 
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The curious case of the 3-star review…

I reviewed The Luminaries for We Love This Book [a web magazine that is now defunct]; here I’ll simply attempt to explain why I gave such an accomplished book only 3 stars. It’s just the sort of book I should have given 5 stars: my MA is in Victorian Lit., Charles Dickens is a favorite author, and I adore historical fiction, particularly Victorian pastiche: Possession, The Crimson Petal and the White and English Passengers.

And yet The Luminaries didn’t g
Oct 17, 2013 rated it liked it
I am ashamed.

I am a foolish reader who, like many, take on a booker short-list, or a booker winner, and expect it to wow me. And it did, and it didn't. I have an unsophisticated mind.

To any reader who reads books as an art critic views a great master, they will read and hear the subtleties of the writer's mind as they structure their work, layer upon layer, until a masterpiece is drawn. They will see and know the influences that formed the concept and guided the writer's pen in its construction.
Jennifer (aka EM)
Jan 04, 2014 rated it it was ok
I'm abandoning this book, with regret for having read it against my better judgement, without more thorough research. And yes, I'm two-starring and reviewing an unfinished book. If that offends you to your very core, then stop reading now. You've been warned!

1. There's a trend among reviews of three stars or less on this book to say things like:

I’ll simply attempt to explain why I gave such an accomplished book only 3 stars. It’s just the sort of book I should have given 5 stars....

I am ashame
Oct 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: five-stars-books
5 "superlative, intricate and fascinating" stars !!

4th Favorite Read of 2015

Wow just wow. This is a very long book and so I developed a quiz to see if you are a potential reader of this most amazing tome.

1. Did you love "The Alienist" by Caleb Carr?
2. Did you adore "Wolf Hall" by Hilary Mantel?
3. Do you like your mysteries intelligent, complex and compelling?
4. Do you like stories with elements of the supernatural, murder, blackmail and intrigue?
5. Do you like your women wicked and your men wi
switterbug (Betsey)
Sep 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Twelve men meet at the Crown Hotel in Hokitika, New Zealand, in January, 1866. A thirteenth, Walter Moody, an educated man from Edinburgh who has come here to find his fortune in gold, walks in. As it unfolds, the interlocking stories and shifting narrative perspectives of the twelve--now thirteen--men bring forth a mystery that all are trying to solve, including Walter Moody, who has just gotten off the Godspeed ship with secrets of his own that intertwine with the other men's concerns.

This is
Jul 23, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Antonomasia by: Booker longlist
[4.5] A rip-roaring yarn and awe-inspiring use of experimental form - it's not every day you see that in a book.

Like Catton's previous near-masterpiece, The Rehearsal, this suffers from a rather misleading cover. The illustration, and the very title The Luminaries seem to allude to "a different world entirely... a world of drawing rooms, and calling cards, and gowns" (p.31) - not a mystery/ adventure involving gold prospectors, prostitutes, drug addiction and frontier-town bigwigs. One likely t
Hannah Greendale
Click here to watch a video review of this book on my channel, From Beginning to Bookend.

An impressive literary feat – intricate, challenging, and singularly structured to mimic the waning moon – that will likely appeal to fans of The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins or anyone in the mood for a demanding mystery of coincidence and collusion laced with corpses, prostitutes, and buried treasure.
Maureen Jansen
Sep 14, 2013 rated it it was ok
I'm a New Zealander like the author. Everyone here is raving about this book including people who write great novels themselves. I'm feeling pretty miserable about the fact that I couldn't get into it, forced myself to read halfway, started again and then gave up in despair. I liked the beginning, started to identify with the first character, Moody, then lost the plot when the other 14 or so main characters took over the story. The faux 19th century style felt slightly forced and the sentences w ...more
Review #642
in which the reviewer tries to fathom why she chose to read this book about the gold rush given that she'd avoided reading it for seven years, and recounts how, in the process of reading it, she stumbled on an unlikely book connection that was lying in plain sight when she looked in the right place, reminding her that if her fortune depended on finding book connections, she'd be rich.

I finished reading several collections of Jorge Luis Borges's stories recently, and also spent an inte
mark monday
Aries the Ram thrusts forward, discarding the past except as a symbol of what has been overcome. Fearsome, single-minded Aries! This book does not fall under the sign of Aries; it is invested in the past, it is enchanted by it. The past is such an important part of the novel that the narrative continues after its climactic resolution with a series of escalating chapters that take the reader back to where it all began. The Luminaries' characters live under the shadow of their own pasts, they judg ...more
Amalia Gkavea
“The clock had struck that late hour of twilight when all colours seem suddenly to lose their richness, and it was raining hard; though the cockled glass, the yard was bleached and fading. Inside, the spirit lamps had not yet succeeded the sea-coloured light of the dying day, and seemed by virtue of their paleness to accent the general cheerlessness of the room’s decor.’’

The 14th of January 1866 was a rather inauspicious day. A young woman is found unconscious, a heavy sum has been sewn in h
Oct 21, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013
“The proper way to understand any social system was to view it from above.”
― Eleanor Catton, The Luminaries


There is certainly a lot to like about Eleanor's novel. Its structure is fascinatingly clever and reminds me a lot of the way Nabokov divided Ada, or Ardor. Part 1: 360 pgs, Part 2: 160 pgs, Part 3: 104 pgs, Part 4: 96 pgs, Part 5: 40 pages, Part 6: 26 pages, Part 7: 13 pages, Part 8: 10 pgs, Part 9: 6 pgs, Part 10: 6 pgs, Part 11: 4 pages, Part 12: 4 pages. Or looked at slightly differen
Aug 20, 2013 rated it did not like it
Disclaimer: I received this book as part of the Goodreads "First Reads" program.

A short word before I get into my review. I understand that this book just isn't for me. It's longlisted for the Booker, Goodreads reviewers generally love it, the author is a real up-and-comer... but it just didn't do it for me.

I think it may have been unfortunate that I read this book so quickly after reading another that really blew me away (Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates), so I kept comparing them (even if I
Nat K
Dec 31, 2019 rated it really liked it

It was a dark and stormy night…

Well, that’s the premise of the opening chapter. One Walter Moody inadvertently stumbles into the parlour of the Crown Hotel, which is closed that night for a private function. Rain is pouring down. It is a deluge. Twelve men are gathered herein to discuss a matter of the utmost importance and urgency. It would appear that they seem surprised to find one another there. As if this clandestine meeting had not been planned. Mr. Moody is lucky number thirteen. The
Dan Petegorsky
Oct 18, 2013 rated it it was ok
For me, at least, the greatest mystery of this massive whodunit is how it won the Booker Prize. I don't think I can do any better describing it than this review from The Guardian, which I'd have been better off reading before I read the novel. While the reviewer sees these traits as a mark of (meta)literary genius, for me it was just the opposite:

"But it is also a massive shaggy dog story; a great empty bag; an enormous, wicked, gleeful cheat. For nothing in this enormous book, with its exotic a
Apr 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: x-favourites
This is one of the most impressive books I have read in a long time. Complex and filled with fascinating characters that held my interest, in part because time and place were also so vivid and real. I found it very enjoyable!
Helene Jeppesen
Jan 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Wow, I have never ever in my life read a book like this before! A book that made me so confused that I was on the verge of giving up on ever understanding what was going on, but at the same time I was extremely intrigued and needed to know what was happening. I started out as a big question mark, I ended with a smile on my face and a "aha" coming out of my mouth. Still, I'm not confident that I've completely understood everything, but it feels great! It basically feels like Eleanor Catton took m ...more
Éimhear (A Little Haze)
May 17, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Éimhear (A Little Haze) by: Medini
The Luminaries won the Man Booker Prize in 2013 so obviously I had to someday read it. I love reading award winning books and/or critically acclaimed books because they make me feel superior I like to know what those with supposedly excellent taste and years of experience in critiquing books think is top quality.

However The Luminaries is 832 pages of story in a hardback weighing 1.088kg (no I didn’t take out my kitchen weighing scales and weigh it because that would be weird……………….. *awkward si
I LOVED this- best book I've read in a long time. It gripped me from the beginning. Its a very clever, very well plotted intrigue of a book. Layer upon layer is added to the intrigue and all is not revealed until the final pages. Highly recommended.

May 2018
Still loved this on rereading. The audio was excellent. God knows how the narrator managed to do so many varied accents so well. It is the time of the gold rush in New Zealand, the 1860s, where a rich and full cast are brought together in what
Sep 12, 2014 added it
Recommends it for: The incarcerated, in prison or an Alpine sanitorium
Punching below its weight

Maybe the fashion for the kind of book that would land you in the Accident and Emergency Department of your local hospital if you dropped it on your foot has to do with a reaction against our concentration-challenged age of swift soundbites, manic multi-tasking and permanent drip feed of tweets and messages that collude to reduce our ability to focus long and lovingly on one task to the level of a mosquito on speed. David Mitchell recently embraced modern technology by p
David Hebblethwaite
Oct 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
If I were to rank the books I’ve read during the last five years (and there are over 500 of them) in order of enjoyment, Eleanor Catton’s The Rehearsal would be right at the top of the list. I bought it on a whim, knowing nothing about it; I was nearly put off by its mannered style; but then everything clicked into place, and I ended up with one of the greatest reading experiences of my life. Naturally, then, I’ve been eager ever since to read a second novel by Catton.

Four years after reading Th
Oct 01, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: The Persistent Reader who appreciates cleverness
The Luminaries: What Hath Eleanor Catton Wrought?

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.-Macbeth, Act Five, Scene Five, William Shakespeare

In which first impressions are revisited; a fence is sat upon; and a six-month long reading journey is reduced unto a six-paragraph review.

It’s taken me a while to organise my thoughts about this hefty historical fiction tome which doesn’t happen all that often; I generally know quite early on whether I’m going to like a piece of writing or not. On the whole I would say, err, I think I um, liked it? I’m still on the fence. Some days my eye catches it sitting over there on my bookshelf and I rem
Julie Christine
The Wild, Wild West, a frontier filled with dreamers, convicts, schemers and entrepreneurs. Some hope to make that lucky strike, others attach themselves like parasites to stars on the rise and the canniest let the eager do the dirty work while they provide the booze, drugs and women for which all men—regardless of their luck—will lay down cash money. This is the Gold Rush, the West Coast, the late 1860’s—but we’re not in California, Toto. This is the South Island of New Zealand, circa 1866, in ...more
Brown Girl Reading
Sep 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Lovers of Classic stories and Big books
EXCELLENT! It's really a masterpiece and hard to wrap my head around the idea that the author Eleanor Catton was only 28 when she wrote it and she won the Man Booker. Brilliant! IT took me a while to read it because the book is very dense. There's a lot to process all the time, however once you get past page 300 I feel things get a lot easier to process. I recommend the hardcover because the typography is well spaced in comparison to the paperback. Definitely a must read. ...more

Why I did not want to read this book initially:

1. This book won the Booker Prize in 2013. I know people specifically seek out award winning and nominated books, but I tend to be a little wary of such books. I know… I’m weird that way.
2. At 834 pages, this book is MASSIVE.
3. There’s this astrological and zodiac aspect to this book, which I didn’t think I would understand.
4. I didn’t own it, nor did I know anyone who had this book. I didn’t want to read such a huge book in the ebook format.

Oct 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned
This needs no review, except to say that reading this was an experience I'll not soon forget (akin to reading The Goldfinch), and it has quickly become one of my favorite books of the year, if not of all time.


Favorite Quotes::

"Some folks are dealt a bad hand. But you can't rely on another person's conscience to live the life you want to live. You make do with what you're given; you struggle on."

"For although a man is judged by his actions, by what he has said and done, a man judges himself
Elizabeth Knox
Mar 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing

This is my speech for the launch of Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries at Unity Books in Wellington, 3 August 2013. 'Fergus' is Fergus Barrowman, my husband, and Ellie's New Zealand Publisher. I was honoured that Ellie asked me to launch her novel.
Joy D
“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 judgment that it necessarily hampered, not only by the scope and limits of his imagination, but by the ever-changing measure of his doubt and self-esteem.” – Eleanor Catton, The Luminaries

Set during the gold rush in New Zealand in 1865-1866, the story begins with Walter Moody, a prospector, arriving in Hokitika from Scotl
jeez!!! holy smokes, you guys!!

i finished this book nearly a week ago now and have been struggling so hard with my thoughts on it. i didn't love it and i didn't dislike it, but there's something i just can't quite put my finger on here, that made the book feel kind of off for me. i had been anticipating this read so, so much, so i definitely feel disappointed. i don't think my expectations were sky-high and impossible though. i have not yet read catton's first novel, The Rehearsal, though i do o
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Eleanor Catton (born 1985) is a New Zealand author. Catton was born in Canada while her father, a New Zealand graduate, was completing a doctorate at the University of Western Ontario. She lived in Yorkshire until the age of 13, before her family settled in Canterbury, New Zealand. She studied English at the University of Canterbury, and completed a Master's in Creative Writing at The Institute of ...more

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