The Luminaries

The Luminaries is a novel by Eleanor Catton. It won the Man Booker Prize in 2013. At first glance, the thickness of the book did make me feel dreaded to read it, considering it  is the longest length of novel I have owned.

Image result for the luminaries

I finished the book not long ago and I didn’t quite understand it, thus I went googled it.It turned out to be more complicated than I thought it was with a sense of mystery and supernatural cast over it. Some parts of the story have remained as a mystery to me. There are a lot of theories circling the internet. And these are some of the probable theories.

p. 827

Part XII: The Old Moon in The Young Moon’s Arms

The Luminaries

In which Anna Wetherell is purchased for the night; Alistair Lauderback rides to meet his bastard brother; Francis Carver makes for the Arahura Valley on a tip; Walter Moody disembarks upon New Zealand soil; Lydia Wells spins her wheel of fortune; George Shepard sits in the gaol-house, his rifle laid across his knees; a shipping crate from Gibson Quay is opened; the lovers lie down together; Carver uncorks a phial of laudanum; Moody turns his face  to unfamiliar skies; the lovers fall asleep; Lauderback rehearses his apology; Carver comes upon the excavated fortune; Lydia spins her wheel again; Emery Staines wakes to an empty bed; Anna Wetherell, in need of a solace, lights her pipe; Staines falls and strikes his head; Anna is concussed; in drugged confusion Staines sets out into the night; Lauderback spies his brother’s cottage from the ridge; Crosbie Wells drinks half the phial; Moody checks into the hotel; Staines makes a misstep on Gibson Quay, and collapses; Anna makes a misstep on the Christchurch-road, and collapses; the lid of the shipping crate is nailed in place; Carver commits a piece of paper to the stove; Lydia Wells laughs long and gaily; Shepard blows his lantern out; and the hermit’s spirit detaches itself, ever so gently, and begins its lonely passage upwards, to find its final resting place among the stars.

I will share some of the interesting opinions I found through the internet in the following:
Most reference were done on Deconstructing The Luminaries: A Timeline

1. How did Crosbie Wells die?

He was poisoned with laudanum in the drink he had by Francis Carver and/or Lydia Wells.
The novel did mention that Lydia Wells received a delivery of bottle filled with laudanum to her house in Dunedin, though it didn’t clearly state where and how did Lydia Wells used them. We could only assume that Francis Carver and/or Lydia Wells spiked Crosbie’s drink. P/s: Carver was seen entering Crosbie’s cottage before Crosbie was found dead.

2. How did the £4000 ended up in Crosbie’s cottage?

In Part IV Paenga-wha-wha: Exalted in Aries, Emery Staines speculated that Crosbie Wells dug the hidden fortune of Staines and kept it in Crosbie’s cottage. (p.663)
However, this assumption could never be proven to be the truth as we only know Emery Staines dug a hole and hid the gold on Maori land and marked it with a few flat-topped stones. (Part IX Mutable Earth: A Partial Eclipse of The Sun) Staines also confirmed in the court that he had decribed to Crosbie the hidden place of the gold. (p. 671) And for all we know what followed was Crosbie with Tauwhare were having their meals cooked in some half mile downriver from the site of the newly buried gold. (Part IX Mutable Earth: Papa-tu-a-nuku) It could also be Francis Carver who found the gold and dug it up, hid it in Crosbie’s cottage and informed Lydia Wells to claim it. (though it is most probably not true when referred to “Carver comes upon the excavated fortune”, the gold had already been dug out by the time it was found by Carver)

3. What happened to Emery Staines on the night of January 14, 1866?

After Emery Staines and Anna Wetherell spent the night together, Anna went to her room in Gridiron Hotel to have her dose of opium and she passed out. Emery who woke up to an empty bed went to Anna’s room and he took the drug out of temptation.

a) Staines in a drugged state, went out and a misstep resulted in him falling down into a crate on Godspeed. The crate was then nailed in place and was set to sail to New Zealand. In New Zealand, Moody Walter exchanged his ticket with another man and boarded the Godspeed under a different name. Moody ran into Staines who was trapped inside the crate as he called out “Anna Magdalena”. Staines was most probably drifted onto a shore and he set out on foot to find his hidden gold in the Maori land.

b) Staines in a drugged state craved for the drug and he went to find Ah Sook, the drug dealer in Kaniere Chinatown for about a fortnight. He stayed there as Ah Sook supplied him with drug. One day (27th of January 1866) Ah Sook took the opium with him when he left his tent and Staines slipped to Anna’s room to get his hands on the drug. He got the drug but panicked when Anna returned and hid behind the drape. At that time, Anna was having a heated row with Pritchard and Anna fired her pistol. The bullet hit Staines instead. He kept quiet for about 3 hours. On March 20, 1866 Staines was found by Tauwhare in Crosbie’s cottage looking for his hidden gold.

4. The Cosmic Twin theory

It is explained by the relation and connection shared between Anna Wetherell and Emery Staines. They both took a misstep and passed out on the night of January 14, 1866. As Anna was determined to cut herself off the addiction to opium, Staines became more and more dependent on the drug. The bullet that had been fired from Anna’s pistol was supposed to find its way through Anna’s temple but instead, a bullet wound was found near Staines’s collarbone. Despite taking meals every day when Anna worked for Lydia Wells, she looked as if she was malnutrition. Anna was said to be mirroring the state of Staines at that time when Staines was lost in the Maori land searching for his bonanza. Anna had visions of Staines’s whereabouts. She could tell that Staines was not on water nor sea as she saw visions of land, which means Staines must be on land too. This proved to be true as Staines was on the Maori land and was later discovered by Tauwhare. When Lydia Wells drew the charts for Anna back in Dunedin, she discovered that Anna shares a destiny with Staines, who was believed to be born at the exact same minute, the exact same latitude and longitude, under the same sky. (Part IV Paenga-wha-wha: Sun and Moon in Conjunction (New Moon))

5. How did Carver die?

It was believed that Carver was killed by Tauwhare. In Part VI The Widow and the Weeds: Aries, Ruled by Mars, we get the hint of weapon used to kill Carver, patu pounamu, a green stone harder than steel. As Carver was cuffed and shuffled into the carriage, Tauwhare was offered a ride on the carriage but he refused it. The sergeant found Carver dead in the middle of the ride and rushed back to the courthouse to inform Carver’s death. Carver might be killed before the ride or during the ride.

I was so intrigued by the story that I decided to decipher the sentence in Cantonese into chinese characters and their meanings in English.

Part I A Sphere Within Sphere: 27 January 186

p. 275
Sei qin
Four thousand

p. 278
Li goh sih hai ngh wiuh…
Your affair will not be…

Ngor moh zou chor yeh…
I didn’t do anything wrong

Part II Auguries: 18 February 1866

p. 409
Ah Quee faat sang me si aa?
Ah Quee, 发生咩是啊?
Ah Quee, what had happened?

Keoi hai mai bei yan daa gip aa?
Is he robbed?

p. 451
Mh goi bong ngoh.
Please help me.

Pang yao! Ho pang yao!
Friend! Good Friend!

p. 460
Neih hou.

p. 512
Ngor yeu nei wai mut haak ngor dei gaa zuk ge ming sing tung wai waai ngor ge sing yu fu zaak. Mou leon nei hai bin, dang ngor co yun gaam cut lai, ngor yat ding wui wan dou nei. Ngor yeu wan nei bou sou…
I want you to be responsible for disgracing my family’s name. No matter where you are, once I’m out of prison, I will find you. I will seek you for revenge…

Part III The House of Self-Undoing: 20 March 1866
p. 530
Juk neih houwahn.
Good luck to you.



One comment on “The Luminaries

  1. […] I wrote 3 blog posts about it, a review – in which I announced that I was about to start reading it all over again, a timeline of events and a timeline about the trove of gold I was reminded of these posts when another blogger referred to them yesterday. […]

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