When you first sit down to read The Luminaries most probably you intend to read the first 50 or 60 pages to understand its setting and pace, then finish your chores and continue reading the book later. This may seem very probable at first, but later you find yourself thinking just a few more pages and then get down to do the chores. Whether it is an assignment to complete, time for your favourite show on TV or to a movie you promised to go with your friend, no matter how important the task at hand is you will find yourself reading a few more pages when you need to stop. This book is simply unputdownable.
This humongous book of 832 pages is Eleanor Catton’s second book for which she won the Man Booker Prize in 2013. With this book she claimed the title as the youngest author to win The Booker Prize.
The Luminaries, set in the gold rush of New Zealand of 1886 begins with Walter Moody arriving in Hokitika to make a fortune upon New Zealand goldfields. Bracing against the harsh weather of New Zealand, Mr. Moody rushes to his hotel there stumbling across a private gathering of twelve men of very surprisingly varied backgrounds. They have gathered in secret to discuss the events of 14th January (two weeks prior to that day) which until now were believed to be mere coincidences. A hermit in possession of huge fortune unknown to anyone died, a whore survived after committing suicide and a rich man has vanished. Quoting Sherlock Holmes “But is it coincidence? Are there not subtle forces at work of which we know little? ”.
As each of these twelve men recount the discoveries they made on that very day about the incidents, the mystery becomes clearer. There are many clues strewn across the whole book connecting the unfortunate incidents making it more mysterious and unraveling at the same time and that is what grips you till the end. Apart from unraveling the mystery, the book also explores the lives and personality of these men, everything from their histories to their morals and preferences in women. It accurately renders the gold rush of the 19th century of New Zealand, the whole thing from hotels to diggers’ tents.
Many have found reading this book a challenge for its size and gripping tale. Wanting to get to the end of the book to untangle the mystery, but the humongous size keeps you from achieving this early.