Sunday, March 16, 2014

Illuminating astrology: a 2014 Challenge extra

I don't own this book, so it wasn't on my original challenge list.  But I heard about it, became intrigued, and found out it was available through the library.  Once I saw it compared to Cloud Atlas, I couldn't resist.

Besides winning the Man Booker, you will hear two things about The Luminaries:  the author is young, and the book is long.  However, after reading Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell I don't know if I'll ever think of any other book as long.  I got through it in about a week, so definitely not ridiculous.   

This is one of those books where you can read the back cover and inner flap and still not really know what you are getting into.  There's a unique astrological structure that quite literally drives the plot.  The action is beyond intricate, and it's not always immediately clear what the heck happened.  Then there's a somewhat unexpected bit of the supernatural that also complicates matters.

In any case, the more I think about the book, the more I like it.  The meaning of the title becomes clear, and near the end you realize you had no idea that the entire plot (the zodiac and the planets) swings at every point around three people (the sun, the moon, and the earth).  Finding and reading most of this discussion thread really helped clue me in to the finesse in the astrological titles and other hidden gems in the text.

So was it like Cloud Atlas?  Eh.  In terms of non-linear storytelling and a unique structure.  And, briefly, a South Seas setting.  But otherwise, no.  Cloud Atlas is actually pretty easy to "get."  Mitchell borders on too obvious with the clues to his game - thank you, comet birthmark.  Catton buries hers so deeply that you might even need to read it again (!) to put everything together.  Yeah, no.  Not this year, anyway  :)

   Final call:

(and a half, maybe)

Consider long and hard before you decide to read this.  Like Dickens?  Like subtlety?  Have a big chunk of time on your hands?  Then go for it!

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