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- Eleanor Catton on The Luminaries
- Our exclusive interview with Man Booker Prize-longlisted author of The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton
Eleanor Catton's hefty, Booker Prize-winning novel, "The Luminaries," begins with a young man named Walter Moody arriving in New Zealand during the island's gold rush of the s, shaken by an undescribed "phantom" he witnessed aboard his ship just before it wrecked.
He wanders into the smoking room of his hotel to find an unusual assortment of 12 men: Irish, English, Scottish, Maori, Chinese -- all of them weathered by the tough life of the frontier boomtown of Hokitika, and all of them behaving with a studied nonchalance. He's clearly interrupted a conference of some sort.
The boyishly handsome Moody has, as the novel's loftily third-person narrator informs us, "the manner of a discreet and quick-minded butler, and as consequence was often drawn into the confidence of the least voluble of men, or invited to broker relations between people he had only lately met. Finally, there is the arrival in town of a lady claiming to be the late prospector's wife but also in some obscure way attached to a man named perhaps Francis Carver, a man who everyone in the smoking room agrees is a villain. We won't even return to Moody's shipboard phantom until all 12 men have had their say.
From the first five pages of "The Luminaries," it's evident that Catton's model is the Victorian "sensation novel," in which middle-class characters were suddenly confronted with alarming, inexplicable and uncanny events whose true causes and usually scandalous nature are gradually revealed in the course of the story. The best-known examples of these are "The Woman in White" and "The Moonstone" by Wilkie Collins, and it's safe to say that if you are one of Collins' avid modern-day fans, you'll be in clover with "The Luminaries.
Eleanor Catton on The Luminaries
There's enough plot here to fill four novels. But that's not all. The underlying structure of "The Luminaries" is astronomically determined. Each of the novel's parts, which become systematically shorter as you go along, is preceded by a chart indicating which planet was in which of the 12 houses of the zodiac corresponding to each of the 12 men in the smoking room on the story's key dates.
You could probably drive yourself crazy trying to decode all this on the first read-through, as some overmatched readers certainly seem to have done. He buried the Ah Quee gold after all. Why does everyone know him as the richest man in Hokitika? Further to my post let me add that it cannot be just that one nugget he exchanged to cash for Crosbie Wells.
It was because of the gold nugget, and because of the money that Crosbie paid him to exchange the nugget. People congratulated him as he left and there was some talk earlier in the novel about how a big success was enjoyed by everyone. Mannering mentioned the gold nugget to Staines when the latter left Dunelin sp.
So I got the feeling that word travels.
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Also, Staines bought the Gridiron Hotel, perhaps with the money from Crosbie. A big purchase like that would mark a man as wealthy in a small community. Staines was accidentally nailed into a crate on Gibson Quay, Hokitika, on 14 Jan He presumably saw the apparition around the 27th during the storm.
So, when did the crate containing Moody get loaded onto the Godspeed? Surely the Godspeed was at sea on the 14th and up to its arrival at Hokitika. Sorry, forgot to say — great post and discussion.
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Helped to clear a lot of things up for me! Tauwhere was asked to go on the ride with carver and the man transporting him. Then, when carver is found to be dead, the driver comes back screaming that carver is dead. He said someone must had opened the latch. I thought that meant that he may have done it. Lydia at the seance spoke another language very well. I thought maybe she was channeling the spirit of ah sooks father. Maybe now that ah Sook was dead, he finally took his revenge on carver. Catton foreshadowed it in a way with that seance, in which Lydia did seem distraught.
I definitely believe the cosmic twin theory. When staines is found, he says that he has never touched opium. He was affected by opium because Anna was taking it. They said staines looked like someone had been feeding him. That was Anna. Her nourishment was going to him.
Our exclusive interview with Man Booker Prize-longlisted author of The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton
And yes he recalled the dresses and other flashes of what happened with Anna. Also someone had asked how people knew staines was rich. I thought he came from a rich family which was partially why he was traveling in cognito, saying he was Edward. I was confused by how Anna lost the baby. It seemed very unclear. I thought it said something about she was having a procedure. I thought it was an abortion.
But maybe she was just being treated after she lost the baby. The horse kick theory sounds like it could be true..
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I thought when the gun went off that it was someone who saw carver slap Anna and that they shot the gun as a warning. Although I thought initially that she lost the baby as a result of being struck by Carver,but later I bought into the horse kick theory. It was certainly not an abortion. Who ends up with the 4, pounds of gold in the end? Hope this helps, Joyce. Thank goodness for Google. Initially, I wrote the blogs to get things straight in my own mind.
Confused on one more point: At trial, Staines claimed he was under the care of Sook. However, this seems incredibly unlikely given that we followed his life up until his murder. Where was Staines during this time? Take a look at the comment string. Somebody there may be able to help. Hi just finished the book.
Can someone clarify if Crosbie intended to kill himself? The book says Carver opens the bottle of phial; And Crosbie drinks the phial. Did Carver go to kill Crosbie? When he arrived, was Crosbie already passed out? If so, why did he commit suicide?
velmovosisanf.tk Carver wanted to kill Crosby when he went to his place, yes. Pingback: The Luminaries: timeline question journals. Great work. I searched for this timeline for awhile and am glad I found it.