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Eleanor Catton Books In Order

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Publication Order of Standalone Novels

The Rehearsal (2008)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Luminaries (2013)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Eleanor Catton is a Canadian born author from Auckland best known for her literary fiction works “The Luminaries” and “The Rehearsal.” As a six year old child, her family moved to Christchurch in New Zealand, which is where she spent much of her childhood and young adult life. As a teenager, she went to the University of Canterbury from where she studied English and then to the Institute of Modern Letters for her Masters of Creative Writing. In 2008, she attended the Iowa Writers Workshop and was the winner of the Glenn Schaeffer Fellowship. It was a program aimed at fostering the development of emerging writers that were working on their fiction that intended to exchange ideas with other writers at the same stage of development. The innovative workshop style has been very effective at achieving its goals as many of its alumni have gone on to win prestigious literary awards.

Catton has always loved writing and storytelling and wrote her first story as a nine year old child. It was a thirty page novella that she was very proud of at the time. She kept at it but never saw much success until the publishing of “The Rehearsal” in 2010. She had initially written it part of the fulfillment of her course for her master’s thesis but the novel went on to get many positive reviews. She tackled a range of topics from student/teacher relationships as well as exploration of themes of innocence, intimacy, power and experience. Even though she was only twenty two at the time, her work was described as seductive and arresting. In 2013, “The Luminaries” her second novel made history making her the youngest ever winner of the 45 year old Man Booker Prize. At 848 pages, it was also the longest novel ever to win the prize. The novel tells the story of a dozen men that meet in 1866 to try to resolve a series of unsolved crimes. The lead is Walter Moody that stumbles upon the group of men and is taken by the mystery and intrigue. The experimental format was praised and the novel cemented the author’s place as one of the most innovative literary fiction authors in a generation.

Eleanor Catton is a winner of the Literary Award for fiction by the Canadian Governor General for her work in “The Luminaries.” She was also admitted to the New Zealand Order of Merit New Years Honors List in the same year for her work in furthering literature. In 2014, the Victoria University Wellington granted her an honorary PhD for her work. In the wake of winning the Man Booker Prize and becoming New Zealand’s most prominent authors, she received some flak for some comments. She asserted that New Zealand’s creative and intellectual culture was broken. She believed that there was a tall poppy syndrome cultural phenomenon in the country, where everybody that stood out would be targeted for cutting down. Many authors that have achieved success outside the county would find that the population would suddenly be very hard on them. On the other hand, many authors found that New Zealanders took ownership of a creative’s success very proprietally, which can be suffocating.

Catton currently lives with Steven Toussaint her American expatriate poet and author in Auckland. She is a professor of creative writing at the Manukau
Institute of Technology
Eleanor Catton’s “The Luminaries” is a novel set in 1866, where the lead has found his fortune in the goldfields of New Zealand. Walter Moody is a young man that arrives in New Zealand on a stormy night and stumbles upon a gathering of a dozen men from the locality. They are meeting in private to go over a series of mysterious events. A huge fortune has been discovered in the house of an irredeemable and luckless alcoholic, a prostitute tried to commit suicide, and a wealthy man has disappeared. Moody is intrigued by the mystery (that he finds as ornate and exquisite as the night sky) and the complex networks of fortunes and fates. It is a story that evokes the nineteenth century world of banking, shipping and gold rush cycles of bust and boom. The Luminaries is a deliciously confusing as well as gloriously complex novel with several intricate plots. The dozen men that Walter Moody stumbles upon each are represented by a sign in the Zodiac. They are a representation of the twelve planets in the solar system each with its peculiarities. Among them are Anna Wetherell and Lydia Wells that are arguably two of the most fascinating characters in a literary fiction work in recent times.

“The Rehearsal” by Eleanor Catton is a thrilling story that tells of the interactions between several groups of students. The novel is set at a drama college for aspiring thespians known as The Drama Institute, the Abbey Grange, an elite private school for girls, and the music school. A female who remains unidentified teaches the saxophone and is often seen in either startling light or in dark shadow. Just like their teachers the students are only referred to by either their first or last names with no one having two names. Only Jean Critchley the teacher who took over when Mr. Saladin the music teacher was fired has two names. Saladin had been engaged in an affair with one of the girls from the private school that had caused a huge scandal. This affair forms the centerpiece of the narrative and all other subplots, actions and themes flow from it. From the abbreviated names we get the motivations and personalities of the characters of the characters. It is a very private world in which teenager say nasty things to each other and are organized in a rigid pecking order. The most beautiful students are at the top of the pecking order and while deviance is desired, it is for the most part not tolerated. The acting teachers insist that reality is much less than the truth and via staged experiences; the truth is brought out and then discarded. It is a theater where cruelty rules and students are taught things that illuminate and pervert human boundaries and the boundlessness of fear and ambition.

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