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Monster from the South Seas

Eileen Battersby, in The Irish Times, finds Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries, which was announced as the Booker Prize winner last night, to be “audacious” and “executed with daring … panache”.

Robert McCrum  in last Sunday’s Observer, was not so enthusiastic.

Eleanor Catton’s … sprawling mystery, a Victorian pastiche set in Victorian New Zealand, is replete with red herrings, astrological symbolism, and suspended revelations. A doorstop of a novel, by a New Zealander who appears to have swallowed a dictionary, it is by Trollope out of Wilkie Collins, possibly suckled by John Fowles. At more than 800 pages, it left this reader wishing that Catton had also paid homage to Robert Louis Stevenson whose best line, surely, is “the only art is to omit”. On page 342, Catton supplies a story-so-far from the point of view of the protagonist Walter Moody. If you are unemployed, or marooned on desert island (sic), this timely round-up might give you the courage to investigate the next 500 pages about the mysterious death of Crosbie Wells, and explore the games Catton is playing. Then again, it might not. I doubt that a sophisticated Booker jury will inflict this monster on the reading public, even if it does look like the thing British readers crave – “the good read”.