This is a massive book — it clocks in at just under 900 pages — but you won’t notice it.  It is so absorbing from the outset that you won’t realize you just devoured another 75 pages.  On your lunch break.

The story is deceptively simple.  On the gold coast of New Zealand, a newcomer is a common sight.  Like California in 1849, so many decided to try their luck as a prospector.  This book opens in a local tavern, when regulars gather for company and a night-cap.  But they are suspicious of the protagonist Walter Moody, just arrived and immediately friendly with the town’s self-appointed leaders.  The men are trying to unravel a series of weird crimes (or are they?).

Catton pits their high-born pasts against the frontier-like atmosphere in New Zealand.

For a man accustomed to his club in Edinburgh, where all was lit in hues of red and gold, and the studded couches gleamed with a fatness that reflected the girth of the gentlemen upon them; where, upon entering, one was given a soft jacket that smelled pleasantly of anise, or of peppermint, and thereafter the merest twitch of one’s finger towards the bell-rope was enough to summon a bottle of claret on a silver tray, the prospect was a crude one.  ~Loc. 159

Her prose remains dense but sparkling throughout.

It was not despite the natural partialities of youth that the compass Moody’s worldly experience was scarcely larger than a keyhole, through which he had perceived, metaphorically speaking, only glimpses of the shadowed chamber of adulthood that lay beyond.  In fact he had met with ample opportunity to widen this aperture, and indeed, to unlock the door altogether, and pass through it, into that most private and solitary of rooms… but he had declined these opportunities with quite the same discomfort and stiff propriety with which he fielded Gascoigne’s rhetorical teases now.   ~Loc. 5761

I feel there isn’t much else I can add to the praise out there.  The book is brilliant.  It really is.

(Since my review, this book was named *Winner of the 2013 Man Booker Prize *

Read via NetGalley.

Hardcover: 848 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; First Edition (October 15, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0316074314
ISBN-13: 978-0316074315
Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6 x 1.8 inches

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