The Luminaries

Eleanor Catton

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


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 was the winner of the 2013 Man Booker Prize and the 2013 Governor General's Literary Award. More about the author


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



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

‘[It] has got me gripped’ Neil Morrissey

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

‘A beautifully-wrought minuet’ Katy Guest, Books of the Year

‘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

‘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

‘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

‘A carefully crafted door-stopper of a novel’

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

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

‘A fantastic achievement and a gripping read’

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

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

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

‘A modern masterpiece... Catton deserves her praise’

‘A page-turner’

‘A remarkable tour de force... Breathtaking’

‘A rollicking mystery... rivals almost any Victorian triple-decker... Fascinating’

‘A tremendously technically accomplished piece of work’

‘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’

‘Addictive [and] very clever’ Paul Dunn

‘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... 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

‘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

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

‘Big, bold and beautiful... A literary thriller that keeps you hooked’

‘Brilliant... wonderfully intricate’ Philip Hensher

‘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

‘Catton's irresistibly intricate plot makes the pages fly by. Snappy dialogue, crisp humour and grand vision sets this far above its rivals’

‘Daring and colourful’ Eileen Battersby

‘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’

‘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

‘Every sentence of this intriguing tale is expertly written, every cliffhanger chapter-ending making us beg for the next to begin. Great’ Kirsty Gunn

‘Exceptional and phenomenal... As gorgeous and complex as an orrery’ Robert Macfarlane

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

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

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

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

‘Here is a book to lose yourself in... If you haven't yet succumbed to the hype of this huge saga, don't resist. A delight from start to finish’

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

‘I enjoyed The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton's game of literary Cluedo, so much I had to ration myself to 50 pages a day’ Lucy Hughes-Hallett

‘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

‘Ingeniously arranged’

‘Intricate... On every page you are aware of minute design’ John Mullan

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

‘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

‘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

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

‘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’

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

‘Mesmerising’ Nick Rennison, Books of the Year

‘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

‘Perfect’ Books of the Year

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

‘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’

‘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

‘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’

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

‘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

‘Spin for a while in this novel's orbit, then return to terra firma with a tighter grip on your own resolve’

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

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

‘Truly dazzling’

‘Utterly immersive reading’ Jenny Colgan

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

‘With patient finesse, Catton brings 19th-century New Zealand to life’ David Grylls

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

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