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The Luminaries
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2014 Book Discussions > The Luminaries - Part I (May 2014)

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message 1: by Daniel (last edited May 01, 2014 04:47AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Daniel This is obviously a rather large book, so I will be breaking up discussion into several parts. We are assuming that people will have read the sections being commented upon, so please be aware that there may potentially be spoilers in the discussion. That said, please do not comment on events that take place after the current section.

There is a lot of setting up in this first section. Did you appreciate the way we uncovered the story along with Moody?


Casceil | 1692 comments Mod
I read this book several months ago, and liked it. I started rereading it last night, and this time around I am finding the prose more difficult, and harder to follow. I do remember from my prior reading that I found the list of characters at the beginning very helpful, and I kept going back to it as I read and tried to sort out who was who. I have both a hard copy and a Kindle version. In the Kindle version, the graphics and list of characters are tiny and hard to read. For anyone out there with just a Kindle version, I recommend printing out that list of characters for easy reference.

In answer to Daniel's question, I'm not sure "appreciate" is the word I would use to describe my reaction to the way we uncovered the story along with Moody. It was very effective, I guess. I'm hoping it is easier to follow on a reread.


message 3: by Kristina (last edited May 01, 2014 06:42PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kristina (kristina3880) I read this book a few months ago. I enjoyed reading the beginning of the story. I imagined sitting right next to Moody listening to the story with all 12 of the men. I could have easily been smoking a cigar and drinking some scotch. You really have to get into the rhythm of the book. I don't recommend you actually drinking the scotch while reading this book, it might be difficult to follow.


Casceil | 1692 comments Mod
Kristina, you're right. You do have to get into the rhythm of the book. I discussed the book with another group several months ago, and a number of people commented on that. Some people gave up on the book early on, I think because they had trouble getting into it.

I finished re-reading Chapter 2 last night. I had forgotten just how much information is in there. A lot of detail that doesn't seem important when you are reading the story for the first time, turns out to be important later on. Alister Lauderback features strongly in this chapter, but then I think he kind of fades into the background, so that when he becomes important again later you have to think about who he is. I am enjoying rereading the book, so that I can look more closely at how it is put together.


Casceil | 1692 comments Mod
I reread Chapter 3 yesterday. I enjoyed the scene where Balfour makes the acquaintance of Te Rau Tauwhare. Balfour is so patronizing. Since he can't pronounce the other man's name (and can't be bothered to try), he tells him, "I'll call you Ted." Te Rau tells Balfour the Maori word for Thomas, and Balfour doesn't even seem to get the put-down. And the business with giving Te Rau a sixpence rather than a pound is also extremely patronizing. Te Rau's attempt at explaining what "Hokitika" means is a good description of the structure of this novel.


Daniel Casceil wrote: "I reread Chapter 3 yesterday. I enjoyed the scene where Balfour makes the acquaintance of Te Rau Tauwhare. Balfour is so patronizing. Since he can't pronounce the other man's name (and can't be ..."

I also found that to be a well-written scene. The issue of colonial condescension (and, let's be honest, racism) plays strongly here, and that theme carries on throughout the novel. I'm sure it will be an ongoing conversation in this thread, but I'm interested in the opinions of others on whether Catton succeeds in walking the fine line between historical reality and modern sensibility when it comes to this topic.


message 7: by Casceil (last edited May 04, 2014 07:46PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Casceil | 1692 comments Mod
Daniel wrote: "I'm interested in the opinions of others on whether Catton succeeds in walking the fine line between historical reality and modern sensibility when it comes to this topic."

I thought Catton did pretty well on this. I don't really have enough historical knowledge to have an opinion on the subject, though. Apart from the colonial condescension and/or racism, though, I think there is also another element to this conversation. It seems to me there is a recurring theme of appearances being misleading, and characters forming misimpressions because they do not look closely enough.


message 8: by Kai (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kai Coates (southernbohemian) | 24 comments I just finished Part I. So far I love the book and look forward to reading my 60 pages a day. I can understand some people's frustration - so many characters on top of the convoluted mystery, it can be confusing. I think Catton did a great job with the characterizations so far - they felt like real people to me.

I agree with Casceil's point about smaller details becoming more important as the book progresses. It took me a while to put together that the dresses Lauderback was being blackmailed with were the same ones Anna had. I liked having Moody sum up everything we had learned so far, as it reminded me of certain scenes that play into the mystery.

So far I do not understand the astrological significance of the chapter names, etc. However, I did love the imagery of Moody viewing the night sky from his new southern perspective and having to reconcile that all of the constellations were upside down. It so vividly captured the feeling of alienation in a new land.


Daniel Kai wrote: "However, I did love the imagery of Moody viewing the night sky from his new southern perspective and having to reconcile that all of the constellations were upside down. It so vividly captured the feeling of alienation in a new land."

Nicely stated!


message 10: by Julia (new)

Julia (juliastrimer) I have to agree with those Casceil mentions in message #4: "Some people gave up on the book early on, I think because they had trouble getting into it."

I had just come off reading The Goldfinch and A Tale for the Time Being a month ago, where I fell in love with the characters. I tried the first few chapters of The Luminaries, and I simply didn't meet any character about whom I could care.

Another issue for me is the use of the astrological charts, with no real explanation of how they connect to the story. That may come later on, but astrology is a challenging study in and of itself, and to simply post a chart felt rather "gimmicky" to me.

I'm not a van of Victorian literature, so the verbosity of the language distanced me even further from the characters. Plus using just men as the main 12 characters was very unappealing to me.

David Sexton is the Literary Editor of the London Evening Standard, and his response reflects my own experience: http://www.theomnivore.com/david-sext...


message 11: by Kai (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kai Coates (southernbohemian) | 24 comments Julia, sorry you couldn't get into it. Regarding the male characters, I think the abundance of men is historically accurate for the setting. I found the three female characters very compelling and in many ways more integral to the story than many of the men. They are not featured in the first part, so I won't go into any details, but I felt Catton managed to find a nice balance between the sexes as the book progressed.

I'm going to attempt The Goldfinch next month, and then hopefully nice short books for a while!


Casceil | 1692 comments Mod
Anna Weatherell is a great character. She appears in the first part, though I don't think we start seeing her point of view until somewhat later. She faces (and has already faced) dire circumstances, and gets through by sheer determination. She seems to be likeable (and generally well-liked by everyone but the jailer, who seems to have it in for her).

Lydia is also a very strong character. Not as likeable or admirable as Anna, but scores high for deviousness and creativity.


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