Why I won't be reading Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries.

Like Keri Hume's The Bone People, Eleanor's Catton's The Luminaries  will be a novel that many people  will pretend to have read but haven't. There will be parties  in the middle class  suburbs of  Remuera,  Khandallah and Fendalton where the BIG LIE will be spoken frequently : 'Oh, yes I've read The Luminaries. Loved it, darling.'   The more brazen will declare they have not only read it, they have read it TWICE!

At over 800 pages I can  well imagine  there will be many  who will have a go at reading this book  but will just give up at some point-  but they will not admit it.

Many people who borrow it from the local library will find it difficult to read this door stopper within the four week reading period - but, again, they won't admit it.  It will become the latest  unread  novel that everyone has read.

It will sit on coffee tables and bedside tables and gather dust.

It'll prop up the leg of a wonky table or two.

It will become an essential fashion accessory for literary snobs.

Will there be book reading clubs where The Luminaries will be the book under discussion and no one has read it? This appeals to me and I would like to attend such a book reading club.

 I declare - right here, right now - I have not read The Luminaries, I am not reading The Luminaries and I have no intention of reading The Luminaries.

Me, I like brevity. I just recently re-read The Great Gatsby and which is  generally considered to be one of the finest novels of twentieth century. It weighs in at around 60,000 words and, as an added bonus, it is a scathing indictment of modern capitalism.  My admiration of F. Scott Fitzgerald  has just increased.

Robert Louis Stevenson of Treasure Island fame wrote: 'If there is anywhere a thing said in two sentences that could have been as clearly and engagingly said in one, then it's amateur work."

Radio Live's Marcus Lush claims he has read The Luminaries. He told his audience this week that they should 'persevere' with the novel.


I might - and have -  persevered with difficult political works but why  should  anyone 'persevere' with a novel that is being marketed as Victorian adventure/mystery yarn? When did literary  entertainment  become an exercise in intestinal fortitude?

 Is there a pay-off with Catton's novel? I don't think so. Reading the plot synopsis and various reviews I think if I did tackle  this monster, I'd be asking at the end of it all - 'And, the point is?'

(440 words)


  1. This is a bit silly, Steven. You don't have to read the book if you don't want to; no harm there. But it's a stretch to make a political virtue out of what you're not reading.

    I don't know what people talk about at dinner parties in Fendalton, Khandallah or Remuera, never having been to any, but I've seen plenty of well-thumbed copies of The Bone People in the houses of trade unionist and socialist friends.

    Reading's too much fun and too precious to hand over to snobbery like this. Besides, it rates so highly as a preferred hobby generally (and so amongst working people) the idea that literary interests are somehow naturally middle-class just doesn't fit reality. Working people read all manner of varied things.

    Why persevere with things that aren't enjoyable at first? Sometimes you learn a new pleasure. I grew up in a household totally uninterested in sport, and so had to teach myself to understand what at first seemed baffling and boring about netball and rugby league. Now I get pleasure from watching both.

    If you like brevity fine. Lots of other people like bulk and detail and expanse - think of the huge popularity of Game of Thrones. But playing in to class stereotypes around reading just seems pointless, and potentially damaging politically.

    (Oh, and I haven't read the Luminaries either. But I'm planning on reading it over Christmas. I'll come back and boast if I end up reading it twice).


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