The Luminaries

luminaries cover image The Luminaries

by Eleanor Catton
General Fiction
Little Brown & Company
Hardcover, 848 pages

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 others' concerns. Primarily, The Luminaries is an action-adventure, sprawling detective story, superbly plotted, where the Crown Hotel men try to solve it, while sharing secrets and shame of their own.

The layout of the book is stellar: the spheres of the skies and its astrological charts. One doesn't need to understand the principles and mathematics of astrology, but it is evident that knowledge of this pseudoscience would add to the reading experience, as it provides the structure and frame of the book. The characters' traits can be found in their individual sun signs (such as the duality of a Gemini). The drawings of charts add to the mood, and the chapters get successively shorter after the long Crown chapter. The cover of the book illustrates the phases of the moon, from full moon to sliver, alluding to the waning narrative lengths as the story progresses.

Author Eleanor Catton is only 28 years old and has just won the 2013 Man Booker Prize for this masterfully told story! At over 800 pages, this is a hefty read, but Catton's descriptions and characters are bound to hold your attention.