The Luminaries apparently won the 2013 Man Booker Prize. For the life of me, I cannot figure out why. The book is all plot and no story. A lot happens, but to no real purpose, and it does not take long for the large cast of characters to dissolve into an indistinguishable soup of dialog and plot points.
Catton dresses the whole affair up by dividing the book up into an unnecessarily large number of sections, each prefaced by an astrological chart. She throws in gimmicks like knowingly arch chapter summaries meant to remind the reader of 19th century novels—distractions that add nothing to the larger narrative.
More problematic is the manner in which the narrative hops around in time. While this storytelling technique can be but to good use, here it is yet more window-dressing and hand-waving. Given the third-person omniscient narration (which is rather clumsily and occasionally inconsistently deployed), the time-jumps and the withheld plot information they cause seem little more than an attempt to fool the reader into thinking there is a complex story here, when really it is just a complicated plot.