This week I finished reading Eleanor Catton’s 2013 Man Booker Prize winning novel, The Luminaries. For the most part, I liked it very much. However it took awhile for me to get into the 830 page book. I found the first two hundred pages to be somewhat lumbering and confusing, as Catton introduced a dozen or so principal characters into the narrative at a rapid pace. It takes a bit to sort everything out, but half way through the book I truly became involved as the plot developed nicely through the various intricate interconnections among the characters.
Set in the rough and tumble of the campsites and boom towns of the New Zealand Gold Rush of 1865-1866, The Luminaries is Catton’s homage to the great period novels of Charles Dickens. The characters are cast in a Victorian aura, seemingly lurking in the shadows of the day and night. Catton’s italicized brief summaries before the narrative of each chapter is also a nice Dickensian literary device.
I especially liked the author’s empathetic treatment of the two Chinese and the one Maori among the principal characters. She avoids stereotyping, and the individuality and humanity of each of them were strongly evidenced as the story unfolds.
At its heart, the book is a basically an astrologically fated match between two unlikely lovers interwoven into a complex solving of a murder mystery. Catton’s writing is beautifully stylistic and so incredibly imitative in cadence and tone to fine writing a century and half ago. Such a talent deserves the highest recognition, and this year the Man Booker Committee judged Eleanor Catton to be the recipient of its Prize.
Eleanor Catton’s 800 plus page novel, The Luminaries, set in New Zealand during its Gold Rush of the mid-1860s, has won the 2013 Man Booker Prize competition. It is the only one of the six shortlisted books that I had not read due to its unavailability in the States. The book should be arriving at your favorite bookstore this week, and most public libraries have already placed their orders, so call your local library today as you can be assured that the waiting list is bound to grow.
Catton, at age 28, becomes the youngest author to win the Man Booker since the competition started in 1969. The Canadian-born, New Zealand-raised writer’s weighty tome is also the longest book to win the Prize, outdoing Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall by over a hundred pages. I will post my review of the book on this blog as soon as I read it.
The Man Booker Prize 2013 Shortlist has just been announced. It includes:
We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo
The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
Harvest by Jim Crace
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin
I have read four of the six, as the Lahiri and Catton books are not out in the States yet. I was frankly surprised that Colum McCann’s TransAtlantic wasn’t shortlisted and Colm Toibin’s The Testament of Mary was, since the latter is essentially a novella, and it has been customary not to include such short works of fiction as finalists. I think that the Ozeki novel is the sleeper in the group, and let’s see if she or Catton will be the next Canadian to claim the Prize since Yann Martel for Life of Pi in 2002. And will NoViolet Bulawayo be the first Black woman to win a Man Booker?