Review: The Luminaries – Eleanor Catton

luminariesThe Luminaries won the Man Booker Prize last year and, having read a couple of the shortlisted books, and a couple of the longlisted books I feel that this wouldn’t have been my choice as a winner.

It’s a good book, there is no denying that. But I just didn’t enjoy it all that much! My personal feelings are that it was over-written and under-edited. At just over 800 pages I was expecting a masterpiece and in some ways it was but there was just too much. I love a long book but this book exhausted me!

I appreciate the intricacies of this book. The mathematical nature had the opportunity to be amazing, and while I really adore the thought behind it it felt a bit gimmick-y in parts. There was so much thought behind it that I can’t tear it apart but it did make the novel a little tedious in places. Also, the notes at the top of each chapter were increasingly more relied upon and that was a bit frustrating.

The plot and style was very Dickensian. I think I read or heard somewhere that this was written intentionally as a sort of parody to the 19th Century epic in the style of Dickens or Wilkie Collins. I definitely felt that but, if I want a Dickensian novel, I’d much rather just read Dickens. Call me old fashioned! Truthfully, I just felt that not much happened.

I read an article in the Guardian about this book which said that it was less about the plot and more about the way we actually read a novel. I wouldn’t say this novel was ‘above’ me or ‘beyond my capabilities’ and I’m finding a lot of reviews that have readers putting themselves down as stupid or idiots because they just didn’t like it. I really don’t like that! Reading is something that has to bring enjoyment and if this book is just one that you didn’t enjoy you shouldn’t put yourself down.

The novel is convoluted and deep, but even in over 800 pages I don’t feel I knew the characters. There was a lot of nothing much happening and, come the end, I just didn’t feel anything! I just felt like “oh… Okay” and that was disappointing for me when I had invested nearly 2 weeks in to a book. I loved the first part – the first 360ish pages were wonderful but from thereon it felt a lot more cumbersome.

I repeat what I said initially, this book was overwritten and under-edited. There was so much, I feel, unnecessarily lengthy wording – things were over described and it just irritated me. In some places a paragraph of description was used where a couple of sentences would have easily sufficed. If it were just edited a little bit it could have been about 100 pages shorter. While I do like a descriptive book, I also like a compromise between physical words and intent; gentle hints and getting the reader to see things rather than just telling them. I don’t feel that this was here.

In the end, The Luminaries didn’t really work for me, and ultimately I just don’t think this book connected with me the way it must have with the many juries of prizes it has won. Once again, it’s a novel I can appreciate the art behind but didn’t personally find all that much enjoyment in. I can’t be horrible because this novel was definitely a piece of art, there is no escaping that, but I just didn’t click with it.

3/5 from me on this one!

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