Earlier this year I got a proof copy of Eleanor’s book to review for the Herald. It was, as my review attests, an extraordinary reading experience. It seemed to be a significant and vital contribution to the local literary landscape let alone the wider global setting. To sit glued to the TV this morning, with twitter alongside, to hear her announced as winner and to follow her speech (so composed, thoughtful, inspirational) was pinch-your-self-material. Even from this far, from out from the city and its hubbub of life, from bookshops and libraries and book chat, I wanted to leap for joy. This is a marvelous book, and its author inhabits this world with a rare mix of graciousness, humility, courage, outspokenness, daring, warmth and kindness. These qualities mark her as a person (as they did with Margaret Mahy), but they also mark her writing. In her speech, she contrasted the need to write for money and the need to write with other values in mind. Eleanor writes out of love — out of a love of writing and words, but equally importantly, out of a love of humanity, her close friends and family, and then beyond. Cheers!
The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
(Victoria University Press hardback $45/paperback $35)
Every now and then you get to read a novel that elevates you far beyond the bric-a-brac of everyday routine, takes you apart, reassembles you, and leaves you feeling as though you have been on holiday with a genius.
Eleanor Catton’s astonishing new novel, The Luminaries, does just that. It was no surprise to me, really, because her debut novel, The Rehearsal, was daring, fresh, beautifully crafted and award-winning. It has been translated into 12 languages.
Don’t let the hefty size put you off (more than 800 pages) because you enter the world of a novelist who, in her late 20s, writes with such wisdom, compassion, elegance and craft you don’t want to depart that world in a hurry.
See the rest of my Herald review here.