Friday, January 17, 2014

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

Hardback:  832 pages
Genre: Literary Fiction
Publisher:  Granta Publications 2013

Source:  Tywyn Public Library, Wales.
First Sentence: The twelve men congregated in the smoking room of the Crown Hotel gave the impression of a party accidentally met.

Favourite Quote: “Love cannot be reduced to a catalogue of reasons why, and a catalogue of reasons cannot be put together into love.” 
Review Quote: The Luminaries is an impressive novel, captivating, intense and full of surprises. --Times Literary Supplement
Literary Awards:  Man Booker Prize Winner 2013
My Opinion: Complex but engrossing.

At over 800 pages, this was rather long and when I collected the book from the library I was rather shocked not having realised when I ordered this just how massive this novel was. As a friend commented it was a good thing thing I did not fall asleep reading it in bed, dropping this may well have been painful. Joking apart I was at first put off by the sheer size and reading the blurb the number of main characters. This was going to take some concentration, in fact it took me at least 100 pages before I really got into this and my early fears of not being able to read it all were banished as I began to understand the plot.
It is a great achievement for the 28 year old author that she should have won the 2013 Man Booker Prize against 150 other authors whose novels were also submitted this year.

Set in 1866 the story transports us to New Zealand during the gold rush. It is a world of banking, shipping, seances, drugs, sex and lots of mystery. As the novel opens Walter Moody newly arrived in the small gold rush town of Hokitika encounters  a group of twelve men gathered  in secrecy for a meeting in a hotel. A series of unexplained events in the township have drawn these men together, a wealthy man has vanished, a prostitute has tried to take her own life and a large fortune has been found in the home of a local drunkard. Walter Moody finds himself drawn into the group as they all take turns to relate their stories and gradually all is revealed as the mystery unfolds in a story of astral influences and fortunes, that is amazingly complex but still a pleasure to read.

As I mentioned earlier it took me a good few pages to feel properly involved in the storyline but once I had become so it was an engrossing tale, which I am glad I have read. In conclusion then a complex and engrossing novel which by the time you have finished the last page will have all fallen into place leaving the reader satisfied.

An interview with Eleanor Catton.

Author Profile

Eleanor Catton was born on September 24th 1985 in Canada while her father, a New Zealand graduate, was completing a doctorate at the University of Western Ontario. She lived in Yorkshire until the age of 13, before her family settled in Canterbury, New Zealand. She studied English at the University of Canterbury, and completed a Master's in Creative Writing at The Institute of Modern Letters, Victoria University of Wellington. She wrote her first novel, The Rehearsal, as her master's thesis.

The biographical information and photo used in this post are with thanks to the following websites, where you can also find more information about the author and her writing. 

Goodreads Author Profile  Eleanor Catton - Wikipedia  YouTube  Eleanor Catton on Twitter

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Real Katie Lavender by Erica James

Paperback: 463 pages
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publisher:  Orion Books UK 2012

Source:  Tywyn Public Library
First Sentence: 'At the age of thirty, Katie Lavender believed she was better equipped than most when it came to receiving bad news.

Review Quote: With marvellous writing, eccentric characters and a great plot, this has it all. (CLOSER 2012-08-11)
My Opinion: Great Escapism

Erica James is an author I have been a long time fan of, since 1996 in fact when I read A Breath of Fresh Air.  The Real Katie Lavender makes the thirteenth novel of hers that I have read. After having not read any of her books for a few years this is the second in the last few months, great escapism just what I have needed recently. Her novels might not be literary but they are always well constructed, this latest one is no exception, with lots of secrets revealed.

The biggest secret of all is revealed to the heroine of the title Katie Lavender by a solicitor a year after the death of her mother.  It is not a spoiler to tell you about this big secret as the reader knows all about it from the start of the novel. Katie is the recipient of a large trust fund that has been built for her by her birth father, a great shock to her that the man she called Dad was not her biological father but a man named Stirling Nightingale. Curiosity gets the better of her and despite her initial reactions to this news she decides she wants to find out more about this man. Her clandestine enquiries lead her to discover that she is part of what from the outsider's view point appears to be a very successful and happy family with a perfect lifestyle! In fact the family turns out to be plagued with problems, some of the characters are very stereotyped and you find yourself sympathising with some and irritated beyond belief by others. Katie becomes embroiled in the life of the Nightingale's and their complicated family relationships as they all seem to lurch from one family crisis to another. A good mix of romance, drama and humour that will keep you reading to find out how all will be resolved.

In conclusion then if  you are looking for contemporary fiction that is pure escapism then Erica James will satisfy your requirements.

 I have reviewed some of her earlier novels on the blog. They are Tell It To The Skies,  It's The Little Things   Hidden Talents. and The Hidden Cottage.

I am having trouble posting videos on the blog but here is the link to Erica James discussing the novel on YouTube. The Real Katie Lavender

Author Profile

Erica James, née Sullivan was born in 1960 in Surrey, England, UK and she grew up on Hayling Island, Hampshire from the age of 4.  Now divorced, with two grown-up sons, Edward and Samuel, she divides her time between Cheshire, UK and Lake Como, Italy

 She began writing after attending a creative writing course at the Arvon Foundation, and published her first novel in 1996. In 2006, her novel Gardens of Delight won the Romantic Novel of the Year Award from the Romantic Novelists' Association. Erica James  is the author of sixteen best selling novels including her most recent, The Real Katie Lavender.

Apparently she has an insatiable appetite for other people's business and will readily strike up a conversation with strangers in the hope of unearthing a useful gem for her writing. She finds it is the best way to write authentic characters for her novels, although her two grown up sons claim they will never recover from a childhood spent in a perpetual state of embarrassment at their mother's compulsion.

The biographical information and photo used in this post are with thanks to the author's publicist and following websites, where you can also find more information about the author and her writing. 

Goodreads - Author Profile  Erica James - Official Author Website  Facebook Profile

Amazon - Author Profile