My Friday Post: The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

Every Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City Reader where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

My choice this week is The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton, one of my TBRs. I’ve had this book for 3 years and decided to read it now after watching (recorded) the first episode of the TV series.

It begins:


In which a stranger arrives in Hokitika; a secret council is disturbed; Walter Moody conceals his most recent memory; and Thomas Balfour begins to tell a story.

I am confused this is not like the start of the TV adaptation at all.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice.


These are the rules:

  1. Grab a book, any book.
  2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader. If you have to improvise, that is okay.
  3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
  4. Post it.
  5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda’s most recent Friday 56 post.

Page 56:

Over the past fortnight Balfour had kept his silence on the subject of Lauderback’s encounter with the dead man, Crosbie Wells, though the circumstances of the hermit’s death held a considerable amount of curiosity for him; he had not discussed Anna Wetherall, the whore on the road, at all

I am now read on past this passage and am on page 65 and even more confused – some of the characters are the same in book and TV, but I no longer know who is who!

I resorted to Google and discovered an article in the Radio Times that explained it to me – MAJOR CHANGES HAVE BEEN MADE – Eleanor Catton has adapted her own novel for the screen – and she’s reframed the story from a new perspective:

For one thing, there’s the total absence of Walter Moody from the first four episodes. That’s in stark contrast to the book, which memorably begins with the arrival of Scottish lawyer Mr Moody in the smoking room of the Crown Hotel in Hokitika.

So, now I have a dilemma – shall I carry on reading the book or watching the TV series?

The book blurb:

It is 1866, and Walter Moody has come to make his fortune upon the New Zealand goldfields. On arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of twelve local men, who have met in secret to discuss a series of unsolved crimes. A wealthy man has vanished, a whore has tried to end her life, and an enormous fortune has been discovered in the home of a luckless drunk. Moody is soon drawn into the mystery: a network of fates and fortunes that is as complex and exquisitely patterned as the night sky.

The Luminaries is an extraordinary piece of fiction. It is full of narrative, linguistic and psychological pleasures, and has a fiendishly clever and original structuring device. Written in pitch-perfect historical register, richly evoking a mid-19th century world of shipping and banking and goldrush boom and bust, it is also a ghost story, and a gripping mystery. It is a thrilling achievement and will confirm for critics and readers that Catton is one of the brightest stars in the international writing firmament.

27 thoughts on “My Friday Post: The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

  1. Oh I hate the use of the description “pitch-perfect”. So cliched – but I suppose that’s what blurbs do.

    I read this book a long time ago – when it came out. Seems a shame for her to have changed it that much. Then again, I remember having some issues with the book and its complex structure so maybe she fixed some of them in her TV script.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m carrying on with the book at the moment and will watch the series at a later date.

      I agree about the wording of the blurb – and this one is particularly over the top!


  2. I suggest continuing with the book. Even with all the blessings from the author, screen adaptations rarely live up to the original material. The blurb is right – for once 🙂 The book is very challenging, but so worth the intellectual struggle – it is a modern classic.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sticking with the book for now. I often prefer a book to a dramatisation – but this is a bit different. I think the author has re-written it with a different focus and structure.


  3. Oh, that can be confusing when the adaptation is so different to the book, Margaret. I admit to being a bit of a ‘the book is always better’ purist, but that’s me. Whatever you decide, I’ll be interested in what you think of the story.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yes, that is a dilemma! I too have been meaning to read the book since it came out and then with even greater intention when I heard there was to be a tv serial. But in the end I started watching without having started the book and I shall leave a gap between the serial and the book. I had read that Catton has written the tv version from a different perspective – making more of characters in the tv version which although important, don’t feature much until the end of the book version. It seemed a great idea to me, if a novel has the cast and complexity to support it, because it’s then possible to both watch and read and not feel that sense of deja view. But I don’t think I could possibly do both at once. I would definitely be confused! Do let us know which you decide to go with Margaret!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree Sandra – I’m not going to try to read the book and follow the TV serial at the same time, so I’m reading the book now and may watch the serialisation later on.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I gave up on the series after the second episode, it seemed too jumpy for my liking and also a lot of it is filmed in ‘supermurkovision’ – so dark.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I loved the book but couldn’t imagine how it could be adapted for TV in its original form, so I kind of understand why she had to do a full revamp. I’ll be interested to hear what you think of the adaptation once you’ve read the book and watched it.

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