Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Books: The Luminaries By Eleanor Catton

(Drivebycuriosity) - The Man Booker Prize is one of the most prestigious awards in the literature scene. In 2013 Eleanor Catton won this prize with her novel "The Luminaries" (amazon). She was just  28 then, the youngest writer, ever to win the award.

This got my attention, but the book didn´t work for me. The story - spread over 832 pages (the longest book that ever won the Man Booker) -  is set in New Zealand during the gold rush in the 19th century (this is a spoiler free blog). Catton tells the tale of 2 con artists, a man and a woman, who manage to cheat and to ruin a lot of people. But the book also narrates the stories of many more persons; and the reader has to follow about 20 characters, who are - for some reasons -  related to one of the twelve zodiac signs. The plot unfolds non-linear and jumps back and forth in time - often told as rumors or hearsays.

According to Wikipedia Catton started working on the plot already in the age of 14 and had continued developing the tale over the time, which might explain the complexity (wikipedia). The author mimicked perfectly the style of 19th century novels, especially the type which is called "Bildungsroman" in German: a type of novel concerned with the education, development, and maturing of a young protagonist.

"The Luminaries" is certainly a piece of diligence work. Her style is somewhat precise, descriptive and analytical, almost scientific - what I usually like - but this didn`t work for me here because Caton also writes anemic and cumbersome. She didn´t stimulate my interest for the described locality & epoch  - I sensed that the situation of gold searchers in the 19th century was just stalking-horse for the con artist tale -  and I lost my interest for the characters and the convoluted plot after reading 100 pages of so. The book might have been a solid novella with a length of 150 pages or less.

Anyway, the author is pretty - and pretty girls get their way. So, why not a Man Booker Price for a pretty girl, especially when she is so diligent?

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