You will find below the horoscope of Mary Ann Cotton with her interactive chart, an excerpt of her astrological portrait and her planetary dominants. Mary Ann.
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- Author Eleanor Catton strikes literary gold with The Luminaries
- Our exclusive interview with Man Booker Prize-longlisted author of The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton
- The Luminaries, by Eleanor Catton
- Most Read in Culture
You know how some places capture the imagination more than others?
There are places I know quite well in the South Island that have never seemed story-worthy to me in the way that journey and the West Coast in particular do. I have no idea whether anyone has ever actually done it. I asked her whether there was one star sign that most commonly got mistaken for other signs.
Author Eleanor Catton strikes literary gold with The Luminaries
I was intrigued. Meaning has momentum. It picks up pieces of lint, you know? The more robust the archetype, the more pleasure it will give and the more stories it will yield. I would prefer to believe in something that is slightly silly — I would prefer to make that act of faith, because I like the system so much, than to take a scientific stance.
Listener NZ See more. Win tickets to Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. The plot is worked out through a dozen gradually dwindling chapters, from a mighty page opening tour de force, longer than most contemporary novels, to a closing one consisting of a paragraph.
Our exclusive interview with Man Booker Prize-longlisted author of The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton
Central to the narrative are two substances: gold and opium. Anna spends much of the first part of the novel hopelessly addicted to it and the remainder recovering from it. Her need for it is piteously craven as she stumbles about, falling asleep for long periods, or at least sufficient to allow the gold to be unpicked from her gown. Ironically, the most fully honourable individual is Sook Yongsheng, an opium dealer with a family tragedy to avenge.
For a novel that looks to the Victorian convention of cliffhanger suspense, discoveries, immortality, dead babies, betrayal, human greed and all too human weakness, there is also a touch of Restoration comedy, particularly in its timing and sense of rhythm.
The time shifts are exactly done, the events of the year carefully played out against a backdrop of the previous year that helps consolidate the story. Catton also makes inspired use of a cache of letters that supplies the most moving moments in a novel not overly concerned with pathos.
Most surprising of all, though, considering the use she makes of the authorial voice, is the quality of the dialogue, of which there is an immense amount, most of it extremely well done. Far easier to read The Luminaries is almost three times longer than The Rehearsal yet is far easier to read. The cerebral intent and intricate star-plotting are not as daunting because they are far less important than Catton suggests. The stars no doubt play their part, but, in this colourful yarn chronicling the crazy deeds done in the pursuit of wealth, it is the characters that generate a series of happenings connecting them all in a mystery that will keep most readers reading.
Books should not be judged by their covers, or by their length. The ultimate success of The Luminaries is not in its calculation or contrived twists, but in the leisurely descriptions of admittedly stock characters all out to make their mark through mainly foul means.
The Luminaries, by Eleanor Catton
Catton largely 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 story and the enduring appeal of a traditional premodernist narrative. Eileen Battersby. Wed, Sep 25, , First published: Sat, Sep 21, , More from The Irish Times Books. The New Zealand frontier setting is refreshingly novel and well realized, and the tale is told in 19th-century prose that manages to evoke a Victorian atmosphere without becoming overly clotted with archaisms.
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With the assistance of some stargazing software , and a great deal of ingenuity, Catton has mapped her novel onto an unusually intricate framework. Those weird astrological notes turn out to have a great deal of significance in the construction of The Luminaries , and indeed have probably drawn the most critical attention.
Plot events and character encounters reflect this scheme, with an astrological chart appearing before each of the 12 sections comprising the book. To all of this, Catton adds yet another structural layer: each section is half the length of the preceding section — a scheme representing the waning of the moon much as suggested by the cover illustration. Catton devotes that enormous first section to the aggregate narrative told to Moody in the parlor: 12 intertwined stories told from the point of view of 12 characters, each with their own backgrounds and motivations.
Nonetheless, the patient reader will plow through, driven by the desire to fill in the missing details of the collective narrative — which, in fact, turns out to be a kind of elaborate prologue to the second half of the book.
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The effect here is something like watching an ingenious tinker laboriously wind the springs of a vast clockwork diorama before flipping the switch: a busy whirr of subsequent plot twists and revelations will spring into action the moment those 12 men abandon the parlor and go their separate ways. All of this is indisputably impressive — a feat not unlike composing a love sonnet based on the Periodic Table that can be read both forwards and backwards.
It seems probable that the conceptual framework of The Luminaries will hold a great deal of interest for certain types of puzzle-oriented readers, who will enjoy figuring out exactly how deeply the astrological symbolism is embedded into the story. Unfortunately, I will not be counted among them.