by Eleanor Catton
2013 / 834 pages
read by Mark Meadows 29h 14m
rating – 9 / historical fiction
I read this first right after it won the Man Booker Prize in 2013 and loved it. (The review is here.) The history, the Victorian-type language, Dickensian plot, etc. everything was right. But it is a plot-driven novel (pretty much) so I really didn’t think it would hold up to a 2nd reading. But the Booker Prize Group chose it so I thought maybe I’d give it a try.
I often enjoy rereading good books – if they hold up for a second reading they get a 10 rating – those are “great” books. If not -then a 9.5 is as good as they’ll get overall and that’s likely based on the first reading. The Luminaries didn’t quite get there – I think it was more convoluted and dense than necessary – And I think there were times when it became a “structure-driven” story – lol – but yes.
But for the first couple chapters, and other places throughout, it felt so good to get together with Catton’s characters and in that setting again. I was both reading and listening again because on my first go-round the characters in Chapters 1 and 2 really confused me so I added the ebook version).
The ambiance of the narrative was wonderfully familiar and as I read Chapter 1 again the whole thing clicked into place. So what was I going to get out of a second reading ?
Hmmm… what is this astrology stuff that I paid only minimal attention to last time? Has Catton actually developed her characters around the traits of the signs associated with them? Why else would the charts be there? That sounded interesting so as I read I examined the behavior and personalities of the main characters against their astrological sign or associated heavenly body and for the most part the idea held up. But after awhile that got kind of boring – yes, it’s there. See the NOTES>>>>>
The themes of fate, fortune and love are also astrology related – fate in terms of fortune and love is the primary theme I suppose. But they seem almost more playful than serious – the book has enough going for it what with the the historical setting and language plus the astrologically-based structure and characters on top of the convoluted and non-linear plot line to add serious themes. (!) – Some hints are there though – “everything is connected.”
But truthfully, it got awfully long the second time. There just really wasn’t all that much new to uncover, no real layers of meaning, etc – and I wasn’t interested in pursuing the astrology. But I wasn’t quite sure if I remembered the ending – or all the parts of it – so I kept going.