The Luminaries

Eleanor Catton

Published: 1 August 2013
Hardback, Royal HB
156x234mm, 848 pages
ISBN: 9781847084316

Other Editions


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Published: 3 April 2014
Paperback, B Format
129x198mm, 848 pages
ISBN: 9781847084323

Ebook Available


It is 1866, and Walter Moody has come to make his fortune upon the New Zealand goldfields. On arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of twelve local men, who have met in secret to discuss a series of unsolved crimes. A wealthy man has vanished, a whore has tried to end her life, and an enormous fortune has been discovered in the home of a luckless drunk. Moody is soon drawn into the mystery: a network of fates and fortunes that is as complex and exquisitely patterned as the night sky.

The Luminaries is an extraordinary piece of fiction. It is full of narrative, linguistic and psychological pleasures, and has a fiendishly clever and original structuring device. Written in pitch-perfect historical register, richly evoking a mid-19th century world of shipping and banking and goldrush boom and bust, it is also a ghost story, and a gripping mystery. It is a thrilling achievement and will confirm for critics and readers that Catton is one of the brightest stars in the international writing firmament.

About the author

Image of Eleanor Catton

Eleanor Catton was born in 1985 in Canada and raised in Christchurch, New Zealand. She won the 2007 Sunday Star-Times short-story competition, the 2008 Glenn Schaeffer Fellowship to the Iowa Writers' Workshop, the 2008 Louis Johnson New Writers' Bursary and was named as one of Amazon's Rising Stars in 2009. Her debut novel, The Rehearsal, won the Betty Trask Prize, the First Novel Award, the NZSA Hubert Church Best First Book Award for Fiction and was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award, the Prix Femina literature award, the abroad category of the Prix Médicis, the University of Wales Dylan Thomas Prize 2010 and Stonewall's Writer of the Year Award 2011, and longlisted for the Orange Prize 2010. In 2010 she was awarded the New Zealand Arts Foundation New Generation Award. Eleanor's second novel The Luminaries, will be published by Granta in September 2013. More about the author


‘All really good books shatter their generic origins, becoming a thing unto themselves. But rarely has this axiom held more firmly than in [this] thrilling novel... [Catton] is among the finest of storytellers, drawing us forward through a labyrinth of lives, all of them converging in ways you could never easily imagine. Her sense of history is such that she makes the past as relevant as tomorrow. Time falls away in her writing, and the mystery of creation shimmers through the cracks in the story. I didn't want this novel to end, and - in a sense - it doesn't. Catton's illuminations last’ Jay Parini, author, The Last Station



‘Sometimes - rarely - a novel arrives that is so good all you can do is shake your head in wonder. Brilliant in design, masterful in execution, and intensely pleasurable to inhabit, The Luminaries is a masterpiece, the work of a writer of apparently limitless range and talent’ Peter Hobbs, author, The Short Day Dying

‘Every now and then you get to read a novel that elevates you far beyond the bric-a-brac of everyday routine, takes you apart, reassembles you, and leaves you feeling as though you have been on holiday with a genius. Eleanor Catton's astonishing new novel does just that... Essential reading’ New Zealand Herald

‘The reviewer says it's so good he's been unable to read another book since’ Independent on Sunday

‘A dream novel: stellar in every way’ Books of the Year, Economist

‘Irresistible and gripping... the things that most impress are the cunning withholding of information, the elegant foreshadowing, the skilful looping back on the narrative’ Lucy Daniel, Irish Independent

‘Addictive [and] very clever’ Paul Dunn, The Times

‘A rollicking mystery... rivals almost any Victorian triple-decker... Fascinating’ We Love This Book blog

The Luminaries blew me away. Such a wild, strange world, such unforgettable characters, all brought together with such devilish charm and ingenuity. A novel like this from a writer so young gives me hope for the future of the artform. Stellar in every sense of the word’ Paul Murray, author, Skippy Dies

‘A virtuoso performance... [It] is resplendent: a twenty first century Victorian novel that couldn't be more original... Steeped in history, The Luminaries feels completely fresh... The literary firmament has birthed a new star’ The Millions

‘Hugely addictive’ Mark Haddon, author, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

‘Incredible... virtuoso... You will devour [this book], only to discover that you can't find anything of equal scope and excitement to read once you have finished. Sheer rip-roaring readability’ Simmy Richman, Independent on Sunday

‘Awesomely intricate... There's an immaculate finish to Catton's prose... Fully deserves to make the shortlist’ Anthony Cummins, Evening Standard

‘Irresistible, masterful, compelling... It has a gripping plot that is cleverly unravelled to its satisfying conclusion, a narrative that from the first page asserts that it is firmly in control of where it is taking us... The things that most impress are the cunning withholding of information, the elegant foreshadowing, the skilful looping back on the narrative’ Lucy Daniel, five star review, Telegraph

‘A breathtakingly ambitious mystery... Catton's playful and increasingly virtuosic denouement arrives at a conclusion that is as beautiful as it is triumphant’ Stephanie Cross, Daily Mail

‘An impressive novel, captivating, intense and full of surprises’ Kate Webb, TLS

‘With astonishing intricacy and patient finesse, Catton brings to life the anomalous nature of 19th-century New Zealand’ David Grylls, Sunday Times

‘It is a pacey and beautifully written tale of love, lust, greed and murder... It could well be regarded as the first great New Zealand novel’ Bookseller

‘Brilliant... wonderfully intricate’ Philip Hensher, Spectator

‘An immense feat of structuring and plotting which means that this novel starts as a gentle stroll and ends with the exhilarating sense of running downhill... Ambitious, intricate, spectacular’ Natalie Haynes, Independent

‘Expansive and quite superb... Catton writes with real sophistication and intelligence’ Lesley McDowell, Scotsman

‘A remarkable tour de force... Breathtaking’ Brisbane Times

‘Richly evoking a mid-19th century world of shipping and banking and goldrush boom and bust, it is also a ghost story and a gripping mystery’ Hindu

‘This epic novel of light and shadow affirms the radiant talent of its author’ Brian Morton, Independent

‘It might be the Great New Zealand Novel’ Kira Cochrane, Guardian

‘Quite unlike anything I've ever come across, so graceful is its plotting and structure... A dazzling feat of a novel’ Lucy Scholes, Observer

‘Wonderfully vivid... The characters are so lush and the mystery is so complex... Exceptional’ Booker Marks blog

‘Highly original, meticulously constructed, thematically convincing, this is a richly evocative mystery’ Good Book Guide

‘Every sentence of this intriguing tale is expertly written, every cliffhanger chapter-ending making us beg for the next to begin. [It] has been perfectly constructed as the consummate literary page-turner... Extraordinary’ Kirsty Gunn, Guardian

‘Remarkable... I found myself frequently slowing down to savour Catton's characterisations and gentle wit. The Man Booker judges have really struck gold’ Jack Kerridge, Sunday Express

‘For the scale of her ambition and the beauty of its execution, somebody should give that girl a medal’ Lucy Daniel, Daily Telegraph

‘Carefully executed, relentlessly clever, easy to read... Catton sustains a human comedy that sweeps through the hope, the mud, the lies and the secrecy underlying gold fever. It is not so much a morality play as an astute celebration of the power of the story’ Eileen Battersby, Irish Times

‘Remarkable... A true achievement. Catton has built a lively parody of a 19th-century novel, and in doing so created a novel for the 21st, something utterly new. The pages fly, a world opening and closing in front of us, a human soul revealed in all its conflicted desperation [and] glory... Dazzling’ New York Times

‘[A] cunningly design[ed] mosaic of tales’ Boyd Tonkin, Books of the Year, Independent

‘One of the most purely enjoyable novels to have appeared in recent years... [It] offers large rewards for the reader's diligent attention. It dividends are both narrative and linguistic... Remarkable’ Jonathan Barnes, Literary Review

‘A book to curl up with and devour, intricately plotted and extravagantly described, a pastiche of the Victorian sensation novel in the same smart yet playful vein as Sarah Waters’ Justine Jordan, Guardian

‘Compelling and beautifully told’ Everyday EBook

‘A bold mixture of Victorian sensation novel and avant-garde constraint... Even on a fourth reading it still delivers’ Stuart Kelly, Books of the Year, Scotland on Sunday

‘A highly innovative, structurally experimental project that tells a captivating story’ Bustle

‘A tremendously technically accomplished piece of work’ Evening Standard

‘Experimental [and] bold... A gripping read... Catton's star is definitely on the ascendant’ The Lady

‘A gorgeously elaborate fabrication’ Catherine Taylor, Books of the Year, Sunday Telegraph

‘A great addition to my impressive pile of great novels’ Julian Baggini, Books of the Year, Observer

‘[A] powerful magic-history fable’ Adam Roberts, Books of the Year, Guardian

‘Fine storytelling, plenty of plot twists and a colourful cast of characters’ Books of the Year, Mail on Sunday

‘Perfect’ Books of the Year, New Zealand Herald

‘Utterly immersive reading’ Jenny Colgan, Metro

‘Intricately constructed... An accomplished work of traditional storytelling’ Isabel Berwick, Books of the Year, Financial Times

‘[A] sweeping, sprawling tale... a triumph from a phenomenally talented young writer’ Best Books of 2013, Stylist

‘Slowly reveals a complex structure raising questions about fate, free will and the human search for meaning’ Justine Jordan, Books of the Year, Guardian

‘A dense, intricate historical saga, criss-crossed with literary eccentricities... Wonderfully inventive’ Kate Saunders, Books of the Year, The Times

‘Irresistible... The kind of book that really doesn't come around often. Everyone should read it’ four star review, Stylist


09/04/2014, 7.30pm

Eleanor Catton and Kamila Shamsie on writing the Commonwealth at Aye Write festival, Glasgow

This year's Man Booker Prize winner, Eleanor Catton, joins Kamila Shamsie to discuss whether the Commonwealth means anything in literature. This year, Eleanor Catton won the Man Booker Prize: the longest ever winning book by the youngest ever author. At the same time, the Man Booker opened up to writers outside of the Commonwealth. In this event, Catton joins Kamila Shamsie to discuss whether the Commonwealth means anything in literature, whether the Americans will "sweep the board" in years to come and what winning the Man Booker actually means. Eleanor Catton was born in Canada and raised in New Zealand. Her debut novel The Rehearsal was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and the Dylan Thomas Prize, and longlisted for the Orange Prize. Her latest novel The Luminaries won the Man Booker Prize award. Kamila Shamsie is a Pakistani novelist brought up in Karachi who writes in the English language. Her first novel, In The City by the Sea was shortlisted for the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize as was her third novel, Kartography, which also won The Patras Bokhari Award as did her next novel Broken Verses. Her fifth, Burnt Shadows was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction.
Aye Write festival, Glasgow, North Street, Glasgow, G3 7DN

12/04/2014, 8.30pm

Eleanor Catton and Rachel Kushner at Cuirt International Festival of Literature

Eleanor Catton and Rachel Kushner Eleanor Catton was born in 1985 in Canada and raised in Christchurch, New Zealand. She holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, where she also held an adjunct professorship, and an MA in fiction writing from the International Institute of Modern Letters. Rachel Kushner's second novel, The Flamethrowers was a finalist for the 2013 National Book Award and was one of the New York Times Top Ten books of 2013.
Cuirt International Festival of Literature, Galway

11/04/2014, 6pm

Eleanor Catton in conversation with Jenni Fagan at the University of Edinburgh

Eleanor Catton will read from her award winning work as part of the Edinburgh Univesity Guest Writers series. Winner of the Betty Trask Award and youngest ever winner of the Man Booker Prize, Eleanor will be in conversation with Edinburgh University Writer-in-Residence Jenni Fagan. Free entry.
Teviot Row House, Teviot Row House, 13 Bristo Square, Edinburgh, EH8 9AL


Eleanor Catton in conversation with Peggy Hughes at Central Library Dundee

Eleanor Catton, author of The Rehearsal (published 2008, and shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and the Dylan Thomas Prize, and longlisted for the Orange Prize) and the 2013 Man Booker Prize-winning The Luminaries, will join us in Dundee! Come along to hear more about her writing and career, in conversation with Literary Dundee's Peggy Hughes. The event will take place at Steps Theatre, Central Library Dundee, 6pm. This event is free and bookings can be made by calling Central Library on 01382 431500 or email
Central Library Dundee, Central Library Dundee, Wellgate, Dundee, DD1 1DB

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