zaterdag 5 september 2015

Eleanor Catton: The Luminaries


This gigantic book has been on my shelf ever since I got it right after it won the Man Booker Prize in 2013.
My book has 834 pages.

Because I know I will reach my goal of reading 100 books in 2015 I can now make time to read a few bigger ones.

 “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 her life, and an enormous fortune has been discovered in the home of a luckless drunk. Moody is soon drawn into the mystery: a network of fates and fortunes that is as complex and exquisitely ornate as the night sky.”

I had a mixed experience reading this one.

It started out very, very boring, way too slow and just not interesting. I just couldn’t get into it and I put it aside to do something else quite a few times. Especially her overuse of the face-to-face talk/interview was getting dull.
It got better after about 200 pages, it was still slow but it got better. It was never a page-turner.

The novel has a hell of a lot of characters; the character list in the book proved to be very useful. Some of these characters barely feature in the novel. Of those first 13 men only a few are important. She only did that to show us once more her ’12-based-novel’.

I don’t like these gimmicks in general. Everything to do with the number 12 in the structure of the novel and the chapters getting halved each time; that’s all just to show us how clever she is and how she wrote a novel for ‘smart’ people. That astrology angle was worst of all. It’s supposed to make the novel unique and oh so special but I just didn’t care for it and it adds basically nothing to the overall plot. Astrology is quack in my opinion anyway.
This is all to show her skill in writing a complex, multi-layered novel.

I did like the writing style itself. Very Charles Dickens, Sarah Waters-esque.
Catton’s characterization was amazing. Anne especially is a wonderful, well-rounded character.
Her descriptions in general are near perfection. I could feel myself being there.
It didn’t feel realistic though how those 19th century people would care so much about a drunk and a prostitute. And that’s what the story is based upon.

The ending was a bit too neatly wrapped up; every possible tiny question was perfectly answered. I don’t need that. It felt too forced that way.
It’s a complex, amazingly constructed, non-linear story. For all its technical perfection, it lacked emotion. I didn’t really care for the story or any of the characters and that’s a real shame.

So, I think it’s clear I found it hard to write this review and to think about my opinion on this and why I feel this way about the novel.
Some novels just do that to me.

Happy reading.