‘The Luminaries’ is kind of like when a very drunk person at a pub decides to tell you a very detailed story, only to start at the middle, get confused, tell you a lot of shit you didn’t want to know and is entirely irrelevant, and then condense the interesting ending into three paragraphs.
Seriously, ‘The Luminaries’ read just like that. At first, a man called Moody walks into a hotel only to find 12 angry men (not those men, other men). Moody, who we are told several times is very good at not showing when he is uncomfortable, decides to sit down even though he is aware that he is interrupting a secret rendezvous.
But he doesn’t show it in his impassive face, that beautiful face that has the jaw that never shows emotion despite the horrors that he witnessed on the boat and did I mention already that he was wet from the rain outside?… Anyway, Catton eventualls reels back to the present to describe, bathtub-story style, the individual bits of stories that these 12 men have accummulated on the biggest thing to happen in the gold-mining town of Hokitika since, well, that first dude struck gold.
A man who lives in a cottage on the outskirts is found dead by an aspiring politician, who also is his half-brother but we don’t know that yet. In the meantime, a really lucky gold digger has vanished, and the local town whore has appeared drugged half to death in a ditch. How do all of these things tie together, you might ask? Well, in the following MILLION MIND-NUMBING PAGES we will find out the following.
1- Anna Wetherall (the whore) did not, in fact, overdose
2-Not all the men in the room at the hotel have revealed all that they know
3-There is a truly evil man called Francis Carver, who was looking for the man in the cottage (well it was more like a hut) just before he died, and is in league with the dead man’s widow, Mrs Wells, who is trying to claim all of his inheritance.
The plotline is interesting and I love Catton’s character development, but I can’t help thinking that the narrative could have been a lot shorter. The upside-down, Star Wars inspired storyline saw us travel from the present to the past to the present to the future to the past. I can’t help but think that the story was interesting enough to be told from beginning to end.
The only mystical bit, which was explored when the book was almost over and involved star signs (you know what I mean if you’ve read the book) was never explained or delved into in any great depth. That’s a shame, as it was the only truly very unusual bit to the story.
This review is part of my 1000 books by 30 challenge. Read more about it here!