Would I have read this book so carefully (and quickly) if it had not been long- then short-listed for the Man Booker Prize? Probably not. Did I enjoy reading it? Yes. It’s a page-turner.
The way Eleanor Catton leaks out bit of information relevant to the unfolding of the plot is brilliant. Did I figure out all the celestial stuff? No, but as it was mainly at the beginnings of chapters, in titles and diagrams, that didn’t seem to matter. Any implications of it threaded in the text simply escaped me and I wasn’t bothered by it. My loss, maybe.
Would I have picked the fact that each chapter is half the length of the one before? (I knew this from a review before I started reading.) Probably not. I would have just noticed that the chapters got shorter, not the precise relationship.
There are a lot of characters, so the list at the beginning is helpful, but I mainly kept track of them while reading. There’s also an invisible narrator, who from time to time says things such as, “But our point has already been made; we ought to return to the scene at hand.” I like this, it gives a sense of someone being in control of the whole enterprise of the story, and this one is particularly complicated, so it’s good to be reminded that there’s a guiding hand.
Would I be pleased if it won? Of course. The writing is good, the plot is solid, it’s daring. Would I be even more pleased if Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale For The Time Being won the prize? That’s hard to answer. I’d maybe be just as pleased; A Tale For The Time Being is my book of the year, to date.
I haven’t read the other four long-listed books yet, though I have bought Jumpha Lahiri ‘s The Lowland and NoViolet Bulawayo’s We Need New Names. Cólm Toibin’s The Testament of Mary And Jim Crace’s Harvest will likely make the top of my reading list in due course.
John Key has indicated many millions of dollars in support of a defence of the America’s cup, if “we” win. I wonder what he’ll announce by way of contribution to New Zealand literature if The Luminaries wins the Man Booker Prize?