It’s been ages since I’ve last posted a review here. Not because I haven’t read anything during this period, but mostly because I’ve been busy, and not so much in shape lately. Work has become somewhat irritating and stressful, I went back to school (learning the secrets of book publishing and publishers – all teachers say it’s not as romantic as we usually imagine it, hope it doesn’t break my heart), and I’ve also been a bit blue due to the weather changes and stuff. One of the books I’ve read in this silent period, which made a good impression, and about which I would post now was The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton. I would rather skip writing a review about The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Physics of Sorrow, because they wouldn’t be the best and nicest posts I’d write.
I must admit I was a bit worried of the size of The Luminaries, when I first picked it up. It’s been a while since I’ve read a book of such size, and I was afraid it would take me forever. Then I read a few comments on Goodreads from people who were complaining about how detail-oriented Catton’s writing is with whole paragraphs and pages of descriptions and plus information, which the book could do without. If there is one thing I don’t like in a book, it’s long and detailed descriptions. If I see a one-pager about a crack in a rock or a tree on a hill – I scream and run. This is one of the reasons I never liked classical literature – even being half Russian didn’t make reading Russian classics any easier or more enjoyable. So, I took a deep breath, made a strong coffee, sat down with the book, and sank. Just like Godspeed barque did at some point in the story.
Yes, The Luminaries is full of detailed descriptions, it gives loads of background and plus information about characters, history, or places, but it’s done in such a manner, that you actually enjoy it. It’s like when you listen to a live storyteller, or you’re having a discussion with one. One thing leads to the next, oh and by the way, did you also know, and you know, and now I mention this I also remember. You end up sucked in the story, and just following it. I also didn’t feel the size of the book, because of how rich the story is. There are about 20 characters in it, all of them richly described, all of them introduced with their flaws and strengths, each of them with her or his own personal story – it’s like reading several novels at once.
The center of the story are the events which take place one night in Hokitika – a hermit is found dead in his home, a whore is found almost dead after supposedly trying to kill herself with opium, the richest man in the region is gone, the barque Godspeed set sail for an unannounced voyage, and a stranger arrives.
The interesting thing is that in the first quarter of the book you already know who the person at fault for all of this is, but none of the 12 main characters can prove any of it. They combine powers, they divide them, they all tell their story in the whole thing, and gather the different pieces of the puzzle to give you an idea of what really happened and how. One found a document in the deceased’s house, another one was close with the whore, a third one spoke with one of them shortly before these events took place, and if they all sit down and share their stories, they might as well come up with a solution.
This was a very rich and enjoyable read! I’ve never been a fan of books which have won the Man Booker prize, but this one was an exception. A pretty good one. Don’t read this book to find deep truths. Don’t read it expecting some life-changing writing. Read it for enjoyment. Read it to relax and travel in the gold-digging era of New Zealand.