There is something about making my way through a brick of a book that is so satisfying. My friend Julie handed me her 830 page copy of The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton and I decided I wanted it to be my companion for my December break, which meant lugging it in my carry-on and trying to creatively balance it while laying in bed reading. But what its size guaranteed was I would have a single story to get lost in for at least a week (and as it turns out, it took me a couple–I blame staying up too late with my family while at home).
The Luminaries is set in a growing town in New Zealand during its gold rush in 1866. A new man arrives in town after being terrified by something he saw on the ship on his way there and accidentally stumbles into a criminal mystery involving a wealthy man who went missing, a prostitute who supposedly attempted suicide, a hermit who was found dead, and gold, of course. Soon enough, a cast of 12 men realized they have connections to the crime and we hear their different tales. Catton structures the story against the planetary and stellar positions and says in her note to the reader that the story is Piscean in nature: “an age of mirrors, tenacity, instinct, twinship, and hidden things…which affirms our faith in the vast and unknowing influence of the infinite sky.”
Part of me wishes I read it with people, because I am certain there are intricacies I missed, but also I enjoyed just getting lost in the story and seeing how decisions and happenstance connect people and create a narrative force forged of money, hope, love, fear–the age-old motivations that exist around every corner, if you’re a story hunter. Just throw in some fate for good measure. So, I wish that I had more intelligent things to say about this novel, but I treated it is now what I’ll refer to as a “Christmas break” read–which sometime is exactly what you need.