Once I knew this it all fell into place — and I occasionally had to banish mental pictures of the early 90's Creme Egg ads when certain characters appeared — but given that a I know far more than I'd like about astrology and b I think I read quite closely I was all the more impressed with Catton's characterisation for not having been able to help making it ridiculously obvious as many authors would have.
A drawback of the astrological scheme is that the planet-in-sign chaptering led to rather a lot of one-on-one conversations. What they characters are saying is generally exciting, and sometimes the chats become a framing device, but the format led to a slight background monotony that was at odds with my otherwise great enjoyment of the book. This is why it's a rounded-down, not rounded-up 4. Whilst sceptics surely can't argue with the idea of using one made-up system to make up something else, I've noticed a few press reviews which are puzzled by the astrological basis of the novel when only one character, Lydia Wells, has any enthusiasm for star signs.
To me it seemed another mental leap by the author; to use this scheme for a story with a cast of hippies, psychics etc would have been obvious. Though perhaps it's only if one's had much familiarity with astrology that it doesn't seem off-key to see it applied to non-adherents, to things and people which seem unrelated to the subject.
Everyone has a horoscope, whether they've ever taken any notice of it or not. Even Richard Dawkins. My own knowledge comes from OCD-like phases of struggle with superstitious systems plus a tendency to hoover up information. I was a little disappointed that, according to this interview Eleanor Catton seems — for the moment - to embrace astrology unquestioningly although she must be enormously intelligent.
But she has at least made a rather stupendous work of art out of it - one started when she would have been only This is, incidentally, the first novel of its size I've finished in exactly six years.
The Luminaries, by Eleanor Catton
The last one was Darkmans - pure coincidence that the names almost mirror. And like the Nicola Barker, it was so enjoyable that the book was rarely burdensome even if I did take a day off in the middle for a sub pager, which helped. I would love to see The Luminaries win the Booker. There are two or three contenders between which I can hardly choose.
Though its scale of ambition and experiment, and sheer bulk, lead inevitably to a few imperfections that wouldn't be found in a more conventionally-structured, polished novel of a quarter of its length. Regardless, it was enormous fun, very readable and ever so clever. Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The Luminaries.
Quotes Antonomasia Liked. Reading Progress. Aug 26, AM.
What a great reading of how all the novel's particular charms work! I'm really keen to see the polished final of this. Aug 27, AM. Thank you! I'd hardly call this polished perhaps a little more so in a few days - but there was so much to say about this book, more than I had the time and energy to write in one day. Sep 13, PM. I did wonder why the first chapter was so frigging long! Very clever. Thanks for the great review. Sep 14, AM. A blog review I've since read mentions that the number of pages in the twelve parts also fits the golden ratio.
Oct 01, AM. I am currently reading the booker short list and have loved your reviews.
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Are there any books you would particularly recommend from the long list. I need more books LOL. Probably the best one on the longlist that wasn't shortlisted was The Spinning Heart. Wasn't desperately keen on most of the others, though Unexploded I thought made a decent job of a well-worn subject. But even that I liked more than The Lowland.
Dec 03, PM. What a great review! I didn't realize the depth of complexity Carton had utilized, thanks for illuminating ha that for me. Jan 02, AM. Thanks for this review!
The Luminaries Book Reviews
I love its enthusiasm, which I'm aching to share about this book, I'm enjoying it so. Mar 24, AM.
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Very thoughtful. May 27, AM. Mercury is visible for only two months in New Zealand and so in the novel, correspondingly, Moody comes in at the start and then exits. I ask how seriously she takes astrology. I try bringing her back down to earth by asking how being a New Zealand writer has affected her work. She pooh-poohs that title. Neither are women — something she says she is discomfited by. As Moody gets ready to tell his story, he reflects on how much it might be worth.
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Will such a fortune change her? The adventure narrative and atmospheric world of The Luminaries make it ripe for an HBO-style television series. Just as we seem back on normal author-interview territory, though, I mention the name of another tricksy writer — Vladimir Nabokov. Catton tells me her birthday was last month and her star sign is Libra.
John Mullan on The Luminaries – Guardian book club
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