I keep reading reviews and reader responses to Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries, even though I finished it last September. I keep hoping someone will crack the mystery for me and meaning will spill out in a glorious shower of literary candy. So far, that has not happened. Some of the reviews are full of praise for the writing structure; others find that the structure overwhelms the story and that it’s just too long. The other thing I look for when I read reviews of books I’ve read is confirmation that I’m not totally off base in my opinions.
Savidge Reads wrote a blog post last December that made me feel much better about my own reaction to The Luminaries. Big books don’t intimidate me. But as I read The Luminaries, I constantly worried that I didn’t know enough about astrology to understand the lunar structure of the book. Then I learned that the length of the sections was based on the lunar cycle and that the astrological elements didn’t add much to the story, according to the people who know what having Mercury in the second house means*. These facts do make me feel a little cheated, though, as though the author pulled a fast one on me.
I read the book last September and I’m still trying to figure out what makes the fans love it so much. I don’t know if it’s because it won the Man Booker last fall, but this book refuses to fall off my radar. Most books that haunt me do so because the themes and events are so thought-provoking that it takes my brain a while to come to a conclusion and/or incorporate the new worldview into my existing one. This one, though. With this one, I guess I’m still trying to work out the trick.
* I still don’t.