The Luminaries

I struggled mightily with this one, not struggling to understand it (since it’s a tolerably well written story), but to clamp down my internal editor who raged against the errors in the text, the spots where Catton failed to line up the pieces of her pattern correctly. Overall an engrossing tale with many many characters (shall we trot out the tired old “Dickensian” again?) who contribute their bits of knowledge either in the large secret meeting of thirteen men at the Crown, through questioning in court, or through ill-advised flashbacks. It’s a tale of murder(s), greed, gold, drinking, prostitution, fraud, and love.
Why was it 830 pages? The Zodiac inclusion before each section wasted a good many trees, along with the strange tapering off that happened at the end, where pp 811-830, make up Parts Nine, Ten, Eleven, and Twelve. Four parts in nineteen pages! All complete with their Zodiac chart intros. Is this Catton’s attempt at creating rhythm and timing, rushing the story to a close? It fell flat with me.
As Moody peruses the stash of letters he finds in Lauderback’s chest from Lauderback’s bastard half-brother, Crosbie Wells, he reads, “I do not know your age so I do not know if you are the elder or if I am the elder. In my mind the difference signifies & because I am the bastard I imagine myself younger but of course that might not be the case. There were other children in the whorehouse, several girls who grew up whoring & one boy who died of smallpox when I was very young but I was the eldest always & I should have liked a brother to admire. ” Unfortunately, a few pages later, Catton makes this same character, Moody, believe that Lauderback thought Francis Carver was Crosbie Wells’ brother, something that could not have happened since Lauderback knew Crosbie had no brothers (see above). “For Carver had called himself Francis Wells, leading Lauderback to believe that he and Crosbie were brothers: fellow whoresons, brought up in the same whorehouse… born, perhaps to the same mother!”
Sadly this is not the only error. In addition to overusing certain high octane vocabulary words and referencing Dick Whittington’s bundle as a common thing (it’s a bindle used by hobos, Catton refers to it twice where I would have forgiven it a one time use), she has another character flub some lines: “‘How had you learned of Mr. Wells’s death?’ ‘Mr. Carver had conveyed the news to me in person,’ said Mrs. Carver.” Four paragraphs later, Mrs. Carter: “When I read of Crosbie’s death…” Which is it, read it or heard it from Mr. Carver?
Somewhat lukewarm on this one, but a decent complex story that was hard to put down for too long.