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text 2019-08-10 20:51
The Luminaries - Eleanor Catton

Found this languishing on my Kindle. I started reading it three years ago and got about a third of the way through before getting distracted by something else and never returned to it.

 

I vaguely remember the plot and what's happened, so I'm just going to dive back in and hope for the best.

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text 2019-07-28 17:31
Suggestions for a $10.00 booklikes-opoly book?
Fall of Giants - Ken Follett
The Luminaries - Eleanor Catton
Iberia - James A. Michener,Robert Vavra
The Priory of the Orange Tree - Samantha Shannon

I am looking for suggestions for an epic, more than 800 pages, book to read for booklikes-opoly! This might be last book - and I'm playing my cat. So far, I've come up with:

 

 

Fall of Giants by Ken Follett: It is 1911. The Coronation Day of King George V. The Williams, a Welsh coal-mining family is linked by romance and enmity to the Fitzherberts, aristocratic coal-mine owners. Lady Maud Fitzherbert falls in love with Walter von Ulrich, a spy at the German Embassy in London. Their destiny is entangled with that of an ambitious young aide to U.S. President Woodrow Wilson and to two orphaned Russian brothers, whose plans to emigrate to America fall foul of war, conscription and revolution. In a plot of unfolding drama and intriguing complexity, "Fall Of Giants" moves seamlessly from Washington to St Petersburg, from the dirt and danger of a coal mine to the glittering chandeliers of a palace, from the corridors of power to the bedrooms of the mighty. 

 

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton: It is 1866, and young Walter Moody has come to make his fortune upon the New Zealand goldfields. On the stormy night of his arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of twelve local men who have met in secret to discuss a series of unexplained events: A wealthy man has vanished, a prostitute 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 ornate as the night sky. Richly evoking a mid-nineteenth-century world of shipping, banking, and gold rush boom and bust, The Luminaries is a brilliantly constructed, fiendishly clever ghost story and a gripping page-turner. 

 

 

Iberia by James Michener: Here, in the fresh, vivid prose that is James Michener's trademark, is the real Spain as he experiences it. He not only reveals the celebrated Spain of bullfights and warror kings, painters and processions, cathedrals and olive orchards; he also shares the intimate, often hidden Spain he has come to know, where toiling peasants and their honest food, the salt of the shores and the oranges of the inland fields, the congeniality of living souls and the dark weight of history conspire to create a wild, contradictory, passionately beautiful land, the mystery called Iberia.

 

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon: The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen Sabran the Ninth must conceive a daughter to protect her realm from destruction—but assassins are getting closer to her door.

Ead Duryan is an outsider at court. Though she has risen to the position of lady-in-waiting, she is loyal to a hidden society of mages. Ead keeps a watchful eye on Sabran, secretly protecting her with forbidden magic.

Across the dark sea, Tané has trained all her life to be a dragonrider, but is forced to make a choice that could see her life unravel.

Meanwhile, the divided East and West refuse to parley, and forces of chaos are rising from their sleep.

 

Any other brilliant ideas for a novel that is more than 800 pages? Has anyone read these four, and can you recommend/not recommend? For now, I am going to go finish Sarum and check back when I'm ready to select the next book!

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review 2017-07-13 18:28
Review: The Rehearsal
The Rehearsal: A Novel (Reagan Arthur Books) - Eleanor Catton

Eleanor Catton's debut novel is a brilliant exploration of the arts, sexuality, and, most significantly, the line that separates truth from fiction. Written as her Master's thesis, The Rehearsal shows the natural talent of Catton, who writes as intelligently and maturely here as she did in her prize-winning follow-up, The Luminaries. While Catton's work is far from the most readable of young authors today, it's undoubtedly some of the most intelligent and finely woven fiction I have ever seen. Each word is chosen with such foresight and precision that it's a wonder to me how she produces novels as fast as she does (were I capable of producing a work such as The Luminaries, I imagine it would take a lifetime.)

Set in an arts school following a scandal—a teacher's affair with an underage student—The Rehearsal may sound like your average morality play or Lifetime movie. It's far from it. At times, with its ambiguously drawn scenes and dramatic play of various relationships, I was reminded of a tamer David Lynch. And at times, especially as I was pulled into the story of the drama school, I was reminded of the darkness and mindfuckery of 2010's Black Swan. Make no mistake, however, Catton's creation is all her own.

As The Rehearsal opens, it may be hard to follow as the dialogue is horribly pretentious, but once the reader realizes that some of the story (and in ways, all of it?) is acting, one may assume that this staged speech was the author's intent. Thus a big foray into false memory, lies, and truth unveils itself. It's all so expertly crafted with little clues here and there, sparks of witty dialogue that highlight the play within a play (and “all the world's a stage”). It's never clear—at least it wasn't to me—when you're reading the “truth” and when you're reading the “reenactment” of the “truth.” One can make assumptions such as that the truth opens the novel and everything that follows is a reinterpretation; or that all is fabrication that leads to the truth in the end; or that those scenes with the most pretentious dialogue are clearly staged and everything else is reality. But in the end, they're all assumptions. Only the author possibly knows the truth. For me, that's okay. From my many years of reviewing books, however, I've noticed that there are many readers who H A T E such ambiguity. I recall now another similar novel I loved that also blurred the lines without ever directly revealing the real truth: Heidi Julavits's The Uses of Enchantment. And guess how many one and two star ratings that novel has.

The Rehearsal is so multi-layered that it is on one hand confusing, on the other, brilliant. It's not the sort of novel that a reader should expect answers from; it's a novel that intends to confuse you and blow your mind. Despite its seemingly “light” plot synopsis, The Rehearsal is the foundation on which Catton is building her genius.

Catton's third novel, Birnam Wood, is scheduled to be published later this year: https://www.victoria.ac.nz/news/2017/...

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review 2017-03-31 21:21
The Luminaries (Catton)
The Luminaries - Eleanor Catton

Let's start this review with something that's just housekeeping, not criticism. I read this book as part of a CanLit project. It won the (Canadian) Governor General's award, after all. But this is CanLit only by the most attenuated of courtesies; Catton may have been born in Canada, but she grew up in New Zealand, lives in New Zealand, and writes about New Zealand. This is a New Zealand novel.

 

I liked this New Zealand novel a very great deal. Yes, the book was hard to heft in a purely physical sense, and the opening, where you are dealing with multiple inset narratives and a dozen and a half new characters, needs either great concentration or the willingness to go back and start again several times, as I ended up having to do because of too-long gaps in reading. The payoff of the unusual structure of the novel is that while you spend the first half or so grasping at the facts through masses of evocative detail, you discover as the chapters grow tighter and more focused that you have most of the pieces of the puzzle, and by the time you reach the tiny blips of prose which are the final segments, you are an expert in this particular narrative and can supply all the context you need. Looking at the cover illustration after I finished, I realized that, as well as being a representation of the waning of the moon, it also represents the narrative strategy of the novel, which starts with huge amounts of information, at the global level, as it were, and ends with merely a tiny sliver which nonetheless conveys everything you need to know. The subject of the cover "information", tellingly enough, is a young woman, and though the book at first seems to be democratically dividing the importance of the characters amongst a round dozen people, in the end it's the young woman (Anna) who's key.

 

I'm not going to spoil the plot of this thing. Though it's not by any means a conventional mystery, discovering what's what is at least half of the joy of the book. (The other half is the very interesting historical depiction of a remote and racially diverse gold rush society, so underpopulated that multiple connections between characters, which might in a populous setting seem otherwise unrealistic, seem entirely plausible ).

 

There is an apparatus of astrology attached to the title and to the chapter headings of the novel. I'm happy to report that for those who are too lazy or too uninterested to try to decipher it, it's completely unnecessary for the understanding of the story. It's entirely possible that taking the trouble to figure it out would add another layer of understanding, or perhaps another way to appreciate Catton's craftsmanship, but I must admit I didn't bother too much with it.

 

I won't lie: reading The Luminaries is an undertaking. I think most readers will find that, once undertaken, it's well worth it. Though it's only very barely Canadian, I think we'll claim it anyway!

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text 2016-08-22 13:11
Reading progress update: I've read 24%.
The Luminaries - Eleanor Catton

I have absolutely no idea where this book is going, but I'm loving the ride.

 

It's like a mash-up of Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens, with bits of Charles Palliser's The Quincunx thrown in for good measure, topped off with Sara Waters' Victorian romps.

 

It is 1866, and young Walter Moody has come to make his fortune upon the New Zealand goldfields. On the stormy night of his arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of twelve local men who have met in secret to discuss a series of unexplained events: A wealthy man has vanished, a prostitute 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 ornate as the night sky. Richly evoking a mid-nineteenth-century world of shipping, banking, and gold rush boom and bust, The Luminaries is a brilliantly constructed, fiendishly clever ghost story and a gripping page-turner.

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