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Friday, 31 January 2014

Evan Andrew reflects on the New Year(s)

Where did January go!

Suddenly it's Chinese New Year day, 31st January, so, Goong Hee Fat Choy!  A Happy New Year again.  As it's the Chinese year of the Horse, I have made my yearly visit out to  Karaka to the yearling Thoroughbred sales, and made due homage to those beautiful animals which I drool over.

Over the holidays I made it my mission to read Eleanor Catton's Man Booker prize winning novel, 'The Luminaries.'

It was no easy feat, believe me!  I did admire the clever originality of the story, the depth of her research, and the descriptive picture of Westland in the 1860's. Interesting for me, in the book she has the Chinese camp with its opium dens at Kaniere, and on my dining room wall I have an old painting of  that lake, which I look at daily.

Honesty compels me to admit that I found the first five hundred pages a real struggle. Two hundred would have been more than enough. With the dictionary beside me, I looked up many words used in the text, that were completely unknown to me, and several were not even listed.  Many times I felt like giving up.

After that, the next three hundred and thirty-two pages were much more enlivening, and the pace of the story improved. The way she has interwoven the main twelve characters and their connections together, as in a tapestry which is revealed at the end, was very well handled with great skill.

I must confess I am still at a loss regarding the signs of the zodiac and the planetary system regarding the alignment of the stars etc, which headed every chapter,  however;  I will leave it to wiser heads than mine to explain it all to me. Particularly as the end of the story is also the beginning, so lots to think about.

My major disappointment was the total lack of empathy I felt for any of the characters in the story, well drawn though they were. The heroine, (for want of a better word,) seemed a shadowy, elusive, unknowable figure, whose career as a whore, just did not seem to ring true to me, and nor did the sole Maori character.

Nevertheless, the amount of time, work and effort put into the book, by the author, is truly impressive.

At some stage in the future, I will try another of her books, but for now, I will concentrate on a considerably easier read.


Evan G Andrew 

1 comment:

  1. I've heard many similar comments on The Luminaries, mostly from keen readers and writers, who all found the book extremely heavy going. There has been much muttering about how it's the unreadable books that win the prestigious literary awards. Personally I'd rather score success by having readers enjoy my books and be eager to buy the next one. (Of course I'm in NO danger of winning any literary awards!)

    Bev Robitai
    aka Officer in Charge