This is not a review, but a mea culpa. I tend not to read mysteries and thrillers. I had no inclination to read Eleanor Catton’s 2013 Booker Prize winning novel, but having read three other fantastic 2013 Booker short-listed novels I felt compelled to see if this 830 page “who done it” novel was superior. It is of course comparing apples to oranges. Some books like “Harvest” had beautiful prose and atmospherics. “A Tale for the Time Being” was a novel that informed as well as entertained. “The Testament of Mary” was imaginative in purpose and execution. “The Luminaries”is a throw back to literature of another era. Reminiscent of Russian literature both in length and the mass of characters and relationships. It comes with a character chart and at about 350 pages in, Ms Catton kindly provides a summary of what has transpired until then. The summary is about five pages. The book also reminds me of the serialized writing of Dickens, although it wasn’t and isn’t equal in my view.
Due to the fact that other books I had taken out needed to be returned before this one, I stopped reading this one at about page 380 and read the other books. As one of the other books was the equally long “The Goldfinch”, it may have colored my decision about this book. Both have proved disappointing to me, although in fairness I am only partly through “The Luminaries”. Over the weekend, I read an interview with Jodi Piccoult. She dislikes Russian literature. Too time-consuming.
If you like puzzles you may like “The Luminaries”. For me, adding a new hedge to a maze, where the writing is not exquisite, the characters not memorable, the story not educational, is not compelling. At a certain point I stop caring; particularly if there will be 400 pages of more of the same. I keep thinking of many other books that I rather be reading rather than forcing myself to finish this novel. I may be making a mistake by giving up on this book, but I do have a sense of relief.