The Luminaries

“On the day of his departure his father advised him to come home once he had seen enough of the world to know his place in it.”

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton was one of the best books I have read this year. I have had a hard time sitting down to write this review because I can’t organize my thoughts on this book into discernable paragraphs or even subjects.

First of all, the plot. Walter Moody lands in New Zealand having witnessed a horrifying scene at sea in an attempt to escape his past and get rich on the goldmines. It is 1866. He becomes the thirteen man to assemble at the lobby of a local hotel his first night in Hokitika. As the night progresses, the twelve men around Moody describe to him a story of murder, greed, and lust. A story in which each of the men assembled, excluding Moody, is implicated. The men set above to solve the mystery of a missing magnate, a found bonanza, and an almost-dead hooker. Intrigued?

While I understood that I wasn’t fully comprehending the use of the astrological signs (each chapter had a weird pictogram at the front of it, see below for an example), I didn’t even catch on to the fact that each chapter halved in length from the chapter before it. I don’t really know if this served any purpose besides picking up the speed of the novel as you progress through it. I hope not, because otherwise I missed the significance.


I loved this book so much that I have (rather recklessly) decided to read every Man Booker Prize Winner in the coming year. This shouldn’t be too much of a commitment, since the Prize starting getting awarded in 1969. To see the full list, check out the Man Booker Website, here.



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