Summer Reading: a new book review by Melodie

The Luminaries is one choice for your summer reading.

The Luminaries


Here is Melodie’s review:

I am a sucker for gold rush stories. Always have been, always will be. Eleanor Catton’s novel, The Luminaries, is set in the lesser known New Zealand goldfields, yet contains all the usual, tasty ingredients of the genre: extravagant hopefulness, dramatic reversals of fortune, and a wild, untamed wilderness that asserts itself in nearly every scene.
As a novel, The Luminaries opens with such thundering promise; yet ends in an anti-climatic light drizzle. The story immediately introduces a complex plot mystery chalk full of intriguing characters, whom you feel that very soon you are going to care deeply about their situation. Only this never comes. Interestingly, it seems to be a deliberate move on the part of the author to make the reader care less and less for her characters and to solve the mysteries with more and more prosaic explanations. Why? I am not entirely sure.
Perhaps Catton saw the novel less as a story and more of an exercise in how long she can keep the tale going. At 832 pages, she exceeds abundantly. There is no doubt that this author is a masterful writer who is reveling in her talent. There are several major players in this drama and each successive development is rehashed through each character’s perspective. The redundancy was eye rolling (I was seriously starting to resent her editor by the 500 page mark), but I couldn’t help but marvel at the feast of meticulous details. She is especially skillful at parceling out clues just when they are needed, but still leaving the reader to connect the dots. The Luminaries offers little human insight or life profundity and I require this from an 832 page novel, but Catton is still a compelling story-teller. And it was great fun to learn about the New Zealand gold rush, something I never even knew existed. If you have time to mine for gold, The Luminaries is worth the read.

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