Title: The Luminaries
Writer: Eleanor Catton
Publishing House: Granta
Date of Publication: August 24th 2013
Rating: 5 stars
“The clock had struck that late hour of twilight when all colours seem suddenly to lose their richness, and it was raining hard; though the cockled glass, the yard was bleached and fading. Inside, the spirit lamps had not yet succeeded the sea-coloured light of the dying day, and seemed by virtue of their paleness to accent the general cheerlessness of the room’s decor.’’
The 14th of January 1866 was a rather inauspicious day. A young woman is found unconscious, a heavy sum has been sewn in her dresses. An elusive man has died and a mysterious young man has disappeared. A mysterious widow and her companion seem to move the strings, and unrest has awoken within the Chinese community. This is the situation in the rugged town of Hokitika in New Zealand when Walter Moody arrives, enticed by the thriving goldfields. The tales that starts to unfold in a smoky room in Crown Hotel is as dark, mystical and intricate as the nightly sky and the constellations that rule our fate…
The Luminaries is one of those gloriously complex and deliciously confusing books that are impossible to review without a) sounding utterly incomprehensible, and b) revealing crucial parts of the plot. Or plots, to be more precise. Twelve men who represent the zodiac circle and characters who stand as representatives of the planets. Among them, two of the most enigmatic and fascinating female characters in recent Literature, Lydia Wells and Anna Wetherell who are the heart of this epic noel. Epic not in scope or in characters since both are limited, but in terms of the questions it poses regarding human nature, something I always look for in the novels I choose to read.
‘’Never underestimate how extraordinarily difficult it is to understand a situation from another person’s point of view.’’
Greed, love, fraud, tireless hunting for fortune, endless schemes and intrigues. The interaction of different cultures, the position of women and men in a newly-built society, the fight for survival in a land as beautiful and mystical as it is rugged and demanding, spirituality, mystery and justice. Everything is called into question, everything is fluid. Each plotline, each event is presented through the multiple views of our characters and the richness of the novel lies in the exploration of the diverse opinions and attitudes towards their fellow human beings. One’s wish is another’s curse and life unfolds in mysterious ways.
Before I conclude my poor attempt of a review, I’d like to refer to Lydia and Anne, the reasons that made me fall deeply in love with Eleanor Catton’s masterpiece. Two women, polar opposites one could say, but with many similarities. Both determined to stand for themselves and survive in a world of men, both willing to overstep the boundaries between determination and ruthlessness, both at the side of the men they have chosen to trust. However, one stands for wisdom, cunningness and seduction, the other for mercy and understanding. But is it all a facade? Which one is on the side of the angels? That is for each one of us readers to decide.
One of those novels that you know they will soon enter the pantheon of classic Literature, monumental moment, a book that takes you on a stormy journey on the Earth and the stars.
‘’You shared your language. You shared the stories of your people. It is a fine friendship that is built from that kind of stone.’’