Why did I read it?
It obviously got a lot of publicity when it won the Booker prize, and it sounded interesting although I was a little daunted by the size (832 pages!). I ordered it from the library and picked it up last week.
Modern/ literary fiction, historical fiction
Walter Moody arrives in New Zealand to make his fortune during the gold rush and, in his hotel, encounters a room full of local men all connected by the recent near-death of a popular prostitute, the actual death of an old hermit and the disappearance of a young, wealthy gold-digger. The men proceed to tell him their story in the first part of the book, then the story moves back to the ‘present’ and then back in time again to fill in the gaps.
Wow! This book is a whopper and that brief plot summary above hardly does justice to the intricate, complex plot which weaves together so many different characters and their individual histories and points of view. It is quite similar to Dickens in its scale and scope in that respect. I thought it was going to take me forever, but it is so well-written you just get sucked in straight away and are desperate to find out what happened; in the end it has only taken me around 5 days, and thats including 3 work days. The true story of what has happened to Anna (the prostitute), Crosbie (the dead hermit) and Emery (the missing prospector) is only revealed a little at a time, involving Chinese opium dens, dastardly sea captains, beautiful, cunning brothel madams-come-fortune tellers, a mean jailer, kind reverend, ambitious politician… to name just a few of the people involved. I haven’t read any of the other books nominated for the Booker, but this is certainly a worthy winner. If you are prepared to put in the time, this book will reward you.