Home > general > thoughts on having finished eleanor catton’s “the luminaries”

thoughts on having finished eleanor catton’s “the luminaries”


what am I meant to do with myself now?


these writers, they write these books and then leave us cold. is there any planning? here, have some heroin. ah, that’s all I have. there isn’t anymore. sorry.


not that I feel quite like that about the book. but it’s that thing of having lived in it for so long (even with breaks in between).


I can’t say I know exactly what I think of it now, but it is rhythmically impaired, that I know for certain. having that last scene is sweet, yes, but it doesn’t justify the preceding appendix.


also, really, the one moment which we were all most interested in (crosbie’s murder) is the one bloody moment in the entire hashing and rehashing that isn’t described.


still, I do like the story and the people. well, I don’t like anna, she annoys me and is a little pathetic, and for all the screentime devoted to her, I find her ill-drawn, somehow. I’m probably being overly critical. but I like every single one of the other characters. love to love and love to hate, and all the in-betweens. in fact, I don’t think her female characters terribly well-drawn. maybe it’s her way of writing? or my way of reading, which means that I easily fill in the gaps with the male characters? but, no, I think she paints them far more, pays more attention to them.


shepard’s wife? can just about picture her, thanks to her buck teeth, but then only in cartoonish terms, so it’s not really helpful.


lydia wells, who is initially fantastically drawn is treated very slapdash afterward. miss catton, just a few more touches of descriptive prose here and there. it was a bit too spare for me with her. for someone as duplicitous and conniving as her.


that’s perhaps why, really. she goes into interminable detail with all the male characters, all of whom (except for crosbie and emery) are essentially straightforward. even pritchard’s oh-so-conflicted psyche is actually just a simple dichotomy.


the female characters are much subtler and complicated and I feel she flounders with them a little. I simply, could not picture anna. maybe she tried to make her too many women at once? or impossibly mysterious and unfathomable and paradoxical, to the extent that she became unpicturable? whereas lydia and buckteeth are at least familiar types.


but, yes, anna got on my tits with her constant anguishing and her frail obstinacy.


all the others I loved. and hokitika. I’ll miss you.

Categories: general
  1. August 6, 2014 at 1:22 pm

    JP is alive? and well?!?! So crazy to see a post pop up here..and so good as well. Even if it is a post about a reading let down.

    • jean pierre
      August 11, 2014 at 12:06 pm

      hey carl! i am, indeed. it’s a bit of a ramble my post, but as these thoughts were swimming through my head and as they were bookish i thought i’d have a go and try and put them into a post.

      thank you for still being interested and taking the time to read!

  2. August 6, 2014 at 6:58 pm

    JP! welcome back 🙂
    I haven’t read The Luminaries, but have heard good things about it. I’m getting a good vibe from your review, but it is a *big* book.

    • jean pierre
      August 11, 2014 at 12:10 pm

      🙂 thank you very much.

      luminaries is indeed a big book. i don’t think i would’ve taken the plunge had not a number of my friends read it. they also went to see the author speak, so there was a lot of discussion about her and the book.

      and, yeah, despite my misgivings it was a positive experience. it was enjoyable in that by-the-fireplace, in-for-the-long-haul, way of a 19th century novel. that immersion in the world of a few characters. i think it’s particularly enjoyable if you like design in a novel, complex structure and patterns.

    • jean pierre
      August 11, 2014 at 12:13 pm

      btw, i’m now reading “a girl is a half-formed thing” by eimear mcbride. you heard anything about it? and how do you pronounce her name?

  3. October 10, 2014 at 7:01 am

    JP!!!! It is so good to hear from you again!!! It made my day to see you in my comments and even more so to see you posted here 🙂 Hope to see more of it 😀 No pressure :p I saw on Facebook that you’re a dad now! Your little girl is ADORABLE. Congrats 🙂 I’ve been wanting to read this book for awhile now…ever since it came out. Sounds like I need to do that!

    • October 17, 2014 at 6:35 pm

      🙂 good to hear from you too, chris!

      i hope to post some more too, as and when.

      and, yep, my little girl’s just turned 2. currently she just says two things: “no” and “more”. it’s like she has a remote control for life!

  4. August 13, 2016 at 11:35 am

    Great one about Luminaries, the Luminaries is the second novel by Eleanor Catton, published by Victoria University Press in August 2013 and Granta on 5 September 2013. On 15 October it was announced as the winner of the 2013 Man Booker Prize.

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