A ‘Note to the Reader’ at the beginning of this book reminds us that the dates commonly used for astrological signs are far from accurate, being based on information from several hundreds of years ago. I learned this when I visited Stonehenge Aotearoa in 2012, and I wondered whether Eleanor Catton has also been there.
At first I found her long clause-ridden sentences difficult and sometimes had to read them twice to be sure I’d got the meaning. The book took a good deal of effort to get into, but it was worth it – just. I found the 832 pages hard going, and some could surely have been cut. Towards the end I resented the continual time changes, and I never tried to follow the astrological signs. However, the authentic tales of the West Coast in goldrush times are absorbing, especially so for me as my Great Grandfather Henry Rout was a Bank Clerk in the goldfields in the 1870s.
I couldn’t understand why words like d____n were treated delicately while bloody was written in full. Surely damn would have been in as common usage at that time.
Altogether this was a marathon effort of writing and of reading. The latter has taken me three weeks. I got my copy from the Book Fridge, and that’s where the book will be returned to.
“This novel has just too much length
a shorter form might have more strength.”