The Luminaries

by Eleanor Catton

It is 1866, and Walter Moody has come to stake his claim in New Zealand’s booming gold rush. On the stormy night of his arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of 12 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 cache of gold has been discovered in the home of a luckless drunk. Moody is soon drawn into a network of fates and fortunes that is as complex and exquisitely ornate as the night sky.

Richly evoking a mid-nineteenth-century world of shipping, banking, and gold rush boom and bust, The Luminaries is at once a fiendishly clever ghost story, a gripping page-turner, and a thrilling novelistic achievement. It richly confirms that Eleanor Catton is one of the brightest stars in the international literary firmament.

My Take

This novel won the Man Booker prize, which made me a little wary. But I was ready for something a bit more slow and serious so I dove in. I may have to read it again just to figure out the plot. And take notes! So many cons, double cons, cons within cons. It’s been a while since I read something so heavily tilted to male characters. Given the time and location it was a given, but still.