Man Booker Prize … Eleanor Catton

It was wonderful to see a fellow New Zealand Author take out this fantastic literary prize

I’ve downloaded a copy of The Luminaries that won the 2013 Man/Booker Prize.

I’ve read all the contradictory reviews on Amazon with as many people hating it as loving it … at the moment I’m trying to decide which camp I’m in…

The Luminaries is certainly unique.  It is written in a style that is somewhat reminiscent of Lord Bulwer-Lytton’s novels … which were written at the same time as the period in which Catton’s book The Luminaries is set … a writing style that has long been out of fashion with its almost Gothic flavour.

Once I’ve become accustomed to this quaint, old fashioned way of writing, I’m finding it possesses a charm and fascination all of its own.  It is not a book that I’ll be able to read in great amounts at any one given time, but what I’ve read so far really intrigues me.

Catton has a wonderful way with words and some of her expressions are so colourful and although old-fashioned, are so uniquely New Zealand … and for this alone, it wins top marks with me.

She has sentences like this that resonate with me….
“Drowning, the boys on the docks told him, was a West Coast disease….”

I’ve always had an obsession with old graveyards, and in my travels down south, I’ve seen countless graves for the unknowns who have been found dead in rivers and lakes… there is one such grave at Mount Peel Station in the Canterbury foothills for a wayfarer found drowned in a flooded stream on the station… the inscription (from memory) reads something like this…

Here lies an unknown traveller

Found dead in a creek

His life is honoured 

As one of us.

I have always been moved by these poignant reminders of these hardy souls, who often travelled alone and faced dangers we can’t imagine as they sought the riches of the goldfields in an often hostile climate and terrain.

Catton’s book is peopled with such characters and I’m finding it so refreshing to read a book that speaks to the Kiwi in me … a connection I haven’t really felt since I read The Bone People by Keri Hulme. (Who also won the Booker prize 28 years ago)

As writers we are exhorted to write in a universal voice aka American English… Why?  When we have such a gloriously unique patios of our own. And to my mind it was this uniqueness that gave this book such an edge and enabled it to claim this great award.

I will post a full review when I have finished reading The Luminaries, but the sample intrigued me sufficiently to purchase the book.

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Published on Saturday, October 19th, 2013, under Latest News

8 Responses to “Man Booker Prize … Eleanor Catton”

  1. Gaylene Atkins says:

    Thank you for this Shirley!
    You are so right – we do have our own wonderful unique ‘voice’ in kiwi-land.

    I will look at downloading as well. Or at least getting an excerpt.

    • Shirley says:


      Thank you for stopping by.
      We do have our own unique Kiwi voice and I feel it would be a real tragedy if we somehow lost it by becoming a bland amalgam of everything easily understood. I have had lots of comments in reviews about our unique patios … others have not been so complimentary saying the language is hard to understand.

  2. Dean M says:

    Your observations about this title are wonderful. I agree with you very much that the older style of prose has an attractive quality and it is quite often a joy to read.

    Elenor Catton is indeed a treasure.

  3. kungphoo says:

    Sounds like the book has many different angles.

    • Shirley says:

      Thanks for stopping by. It is a fascinating read, but I can see where a lot of people more used to the modern way of writing would find it difficult to follow. Me I love language and word so I am really enjoying it.

  4. Kelly says:

    I don’t always read reviews and take them to heart. I have to pick up the book myself to make that decision. Sounds like an interesting read..

    • Shirley says:

      Thanks for stopping by. Reviews are a fact of life when you’re a writer and my motto always has been, and I see no reason to change it, is to read them and if I think they have a valid point to make, then I’ll take note. When I’m reading I’m like you, I ignore reviews and try a book for myself.

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