After three months, I have finally finished The Luminaries. I am totally giving myself a round of applause.
I don’t honestly know why it took me so long. I am a very quick reader. Possibly it was because it is so big. I couldn’t take it on trains with me so every time I had a journey in January and February, which was often, I ended up reading and getting involved with something else. Plus, it took quite a while to get going. There are thirteen characters intimately involved with the story from the very start, and we find out their involvements chronologically and from their point of view. As such, there was a lot of chopping and changing which I think slowed the narrative a bit.
Generally, though, I really enjoyed this book. Every time I picked it up I was happy, which makes it all the more bizarre that I didn’t stick with it over consecutive nights. It is set in the 19th century, and would be Victorian were it not set in New Zealand, during the gold rush. It is beautifully described, with lots of details that stood out. It must have taken an awful lot of research, but I think it wears it quite likely.
I heard before I read it that it was a murder mystery, but it wasn’t really. That is to say, there is a murder but there is no doubt at all who the perpetrator is. There is also a bit of a supernatural element, a lot of astrological charts, although it isn’t really clear why until we near the end of the novel. As such, I was a little confused by that element for much of the book. The story is all chronological until the final section, when we go back to before the start and find out what really happened and what all the connections are between everyone. Some supernatural bits are never really explained, but I don’t mind that. It can seem a bit trite if everything is fully explained.
This book was the Booker Prize winner this year, but it’s hard to know what I think about it. I know I enjoyed it, but I didn’t feel swept along like I do with many books. The characters were all very compelling and interesting, particularly the two main female characters, Anna Wetherell and Lydia Wells. It might well do with a second reading, and I would certainly recommend it. I think you just have to be prepared to put in a significant amount of effort.