It was wonderful to see a fellow New Zealand Author take out this fantastic literary prizeI'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.