Ah, thank goodness it’s over! Sorry, that’s a terrible way to start a review, especially of a book that I quite enjoyed. But as someone who is yet to totally succumb to the e-book revolution, an 828 page tome is just too bloody long.
Set in New Zealand during the gold rushes of the mid 1800s, it follows a series of characters whose fates become entwined and tangled. There is a whore, found passed out from opium in a suspected suicide attempt. A recluse found dead in his hut with a hidden fortune. A politician, the first to come across the body. And just so many more characters. It is a complex web of lies and deceits, and even at the end, I do not know who knows what, and who has come out of it better or worse.
Catton won the Man Booker Prize for this in 2013, and while I find that the Man Booker winners can be touch and go for me, I absolutely see why this won. It is beautiful, evoking the time and place in a way that is extremely romantic and yet filthy and realistic. The characters are complex and it is fascinating to see the lies they tell to each other and to themselves. But it was just too much book for me.
This book is a commitment to reading. If you can set aside time to let the story take you away, to become completely drawn in, it will be a book that you cannot put down. Unfortunately, for me it felt like homework; like the book that I had to finish before I allowed myself to have any reading fun.
Should I give up on the big books? Here – check out Wendy’s blog on Brick Sized Books.