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Maven Books

Reviews about historical, literary, classic, and other fiction.  Miscellaneous book things.

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The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

The Luminaries - Eleanor Catton

This book is obviously an attempt to emulate the lengthy and intricately detailed novels of the Victorian era, like something Dickens would have written (Bleak House came to mind as I read it).  Unfortunately, it falls far short of that mark, and instead was just overly wordy, repetitive, and slow-moving, without feeling like there was much substance.

The plot progressed very slowly, structured through constant flashbacks that awkwardly shifted from one character to another without furthering the plot very much at all.  It often felt like felt like something that would have taken a minute in real life was drawn out of several pages, with much repetition.  Conversations between two people would have them repeating the same phrase back and forth, or the inside thoughts of one character would be repeating and rehashing what was just detailed by the narrator or said by someone else.

Ultimately, the biggest problem was that all this detail felt like it was lacking proper substance to it.  It was all just fluff, like being giving an airy ball of cotton candy when you're hoping for a rich piece of dark chocolate to really bite into.  Even if you try to savor the experience of wading through all those wordy passages, in the end, you don't feel like you really got much out of it, despite all the effort.

I do appreciate what the author was trying to do, especially her efforts to make the language and style fit the time period.  The book just didn't quite work though, and it felt like I was reading the transcript of some sort of interactive, immersive video game, with rather heavy amounts of hand-holding, rather than a great work of historical fiction.