filed under How To Write A Book.

Hurray! It’s Book Chat time. I have to say, this is one of my favourite things to do on my blog—who wouldn’t love chatting about books for ten minutes?

My apologies for this month’s Book Chat being a couple of weeks later than it should have been. The launch of the new website delayed things a little. But, without further ado in the video below, I’ll answer the question everybody is asking: is The Luminaries worth the time it takes to read it?

I’ll also tell you if I agree with dual Book Prize winner Hilary Mantel, who says that the only book writers need to read is Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande. And, you’ll find out why I absolutely recommend Kate Forsyth’s The Wild Girl for fans of historical fiction.

Once you’ve watched the video, I’d love to know if you agree with me or not—please tell me what you loved and didn’t love about the books I’ve discussed. I’d also love to hear if I’ve inspired you to pick up any of these books.

The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth, reviewed by Natasha LesterThe Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande book review by Natasha Lester

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It would be great if you could join me for next month’s Book Chat too. I know I’m the only person in Australia who hasn’t read Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Project, so I’m fixing that by reading it this month. I’m also reading Jo Baker’s Longbourn, a fictional retelling of Pride and Prejudice from the point of view of the servants—it sounds like a must for all Pride and Prejudice lovers.

Enjoy, and happy reading!

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28 Responses to “Book Chat: The One Book Every Writer Should Read, and Is The Luminaries Worth Reading?”

  1. Karen Comer

    Natasha, I have just finished reading Wild Girl – loved it so much I bought BItter Greens! I did find Dorchen’s limitations frustrating, despite knowing how realistic they were. I have not heard of Becoming a writer so will add that to my wish list. The Luminaries is on my bedside table but after your recommendation, I will wait a little longer to read it to find a decent chunk of time!

    Reply
    • Natasha Lester

      I’m going to buy Bitter Greens too – I haven’t read it yet but if it’s anything like The Wild Girl, it will definitely be worth a read. I might do Bitter Greens in a few months’ time for Book Chat. You’ll like Becoming a Writer I think; it’s quite short and easy to read so it’s a good one to be able to fit in any time. And yes, I think The Luminaries is definitely best read in large chunks – good luck with it and please let me know what you think when you get the time to read it.

      Reply
  2. Bernadette

    Thanks for Book Chat. Great idea. I never knew that the size of a book was a criterion for selection! If you like it, you’ll be happy to keep reading it, if you don’t, just put it down and forget about it. I agree with your comments on The Luminaries. This is a book for the brain, not the heart. It’s very interestingly structured and is quite a feat in that respect. It has undeniable qualities and is an achievement in almost every respect but it didn’t really trigger an emotional response in me. That said, I enjoyed reading it.

    Reply
    • Natasha Lester

      Hi Bernadette – thanks for commenting. You’re right, The Luminaries is definitely a book for the brain and not the heart. Which makes me wonder, for all the awe the plot and structure inspires, and all the achievements it has in terms of managing and unravelling a complex story, does it ultimately fail if it doesn’t forge an emotional response with the reader? I don’t know; it’s an interesting question to ponder.

      And I think size only becomes a criteria when you have so many books you want to read that you want to make sure you don’t waste valuable reading time on something that won’t ultimately be worth it! At least, that’s how it works for me – maybe when I have more reading time I’ll be less fussy! Hope you join me for the next book chat.

      Reply
  3. Amanda Kendle (@amandakendle)

    So you have definitely not sold me on The Luminaries, or perhaps you’ve sold me on the not investing my valuable hours in it!! Which is good to know too 😉
    I’m pretty sure you really are the only person in Australia who hasn’t read The Rosie Project because even most of the mums at my German playgroup have read it in, in their non-native language!! Which kind of summed it up for me as a fun and easy read. Perhaps an excellent contrast to The Luminaries? Will be interested to see what you think of it. Was Graeme Simison on a panel with you at PWF last year? I think that’s why I read it.

    Reply
    • Natasha Lester

      Save The Luminaries for your next long plane trip – it’s perfect for that.

      And yes, I needed something quick and easy after The Luminaries, which is why I chose Rosie. Also, given it’s been such a huge hit, it really is part of my job to find out why!

      Reply
  4. Glen Hunting

    Nope, you’re not the only person who hasn’t read the Rosie Project. I haven’t either. And I saw Graeme Simsion last weekend. And I have not one but two copies of it…Time for a public hanging, perhaps?

    Reply
    • Natasha Lester

      Well then let’s read it together! I expect to see you here next month letting me know what you thought of it! You don’t have to read both copies of it though!

      Reply
  5. Maureen

    Hi Natasha. Another fabulous Book Chat. Good on you for taking the time to engage with us over our mutual love of books! I read a preview copy of The Luminaries before it won the Man-Booker Prize and agree wholeheartedly with much that you have said today. I appreciated the very Dickensian atmosphere of the story — all the twists and turns, the fascinating characters and the way Eleanor Catton evoked place and time so effectively. I, too, felt some degree of emotional detachment — as if viewing the events from afar. I was, however, constantly in awe of the depth of Catton’s imaginings. My biggest mistake while reading it: I didn’t notice the list of key characters at the start until I’d finished! It would have been an incredibly valuable tool for keeping track of who was who. All in all, I really enjoyed it, but I found it literally and figuratively heavy going at times.
    Your comments about Kate Forsyth’s The Wild Girl certainly intrigued and interested me, so that’s another one to add to my “must read” pile; and as soon as I’ve posted this comment I’m going to order a copy of Dorothea Brande’s Becoming A Writer, based on what you had to say about it.
    I’m so looking forward to your Book Chat next month. I’ve read both books, but am not going to reveal my opinion until you’ve shared yours! Happy reading — and writing!
    PS Signed up today for “Get Your Novel Written” through UWA Extension, so looking forward to more words of wisdom and practical advice from you in August and September. :o)

    Reply
    • Natasha Lester

      Fantastic Maureen! I look forward to seeing you again in August.

      I think it’s such a shame that The Luminaries just missed the mark with its emotional pull; imagine what an amazing book it would be if even one of those characters really struck everyone’s hearts. And yes, the character chart at the front was very handy!

      You’ll love Becoming a Writer – make sure you let me know what you think of it, and especially if you follow her advice about getting into the habit of writing, let me know if it works for you. Can’t wait to hear what you think of next months’ books.

      Reply
  6. elimy293

    I can’t say that I connected emotionally with the characters in the Luminaries either, come to think of it, but that definitely did not stop me being totally obsessed with it… there was so much deep thinking in there, and I was picking up on the sense of there being something beyond my understanding at work…

    I haven’t read The Wild Girl, but I have read Bitter Greens, which was lovely (and a little sexy at times). I have read both The Rosie Project and Longbourn, and I think you’ll probably enjoy them.

    Reply
    • Natasha Lester

      I’ve read a few reviews of The Luminaries where people have wondered if there was something deeper going on that they weren’t quite able to fully grasp. That’s another reason why I can’t help wondering if it really was a successful book. Ideally, I’d want most of my readers to come to the end satisfied, perhaps with the ending shedding new light on the story that came before, thus making the reader want to reconsider the story, ponder it, perhaps even read it again. I don’t know if I’d want them to feel as if there were things in the story that were out of their reach because then the story isn’t embracing the reader and welcoming them in.

      It’s an interesting question, I think. And I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts on Rosie and Longbourn next month.

      Reply
  7. craneclaire

    I have been wanting to try Kate Forsyth’s book for a while, now I will definitly have to visit the library

    Reply
    • Natasha Lester

      It’s definitely worth a read, especially if you enjoy well crafted and well researched historical fiction that weaves an engaging story. Let me know what you think when you’ve had a chance to read it.

      Reply
  8. Annie J Ryan

    Hi Natasha. Thank goodness an honest opinion on The Luminaries. I have friends who have read it and rave about it. I, on the other hand, am struggling to get past the first one hundred pages- not because it is difficult or poorly written, on the contrary, but I guess her great authenticity in writing in the era, in which there was a lot of circuitous speech and exposition, has made it a cumbersome read for me. I am looking forward to fast tracking to the real story, and tying the threads together. I absolutely enjoyed ‘The Rosie Project.’ and have read it a couple of times. I don’t re-read often. Congratulations on an excellent new website and its great to listen to your book chats. How fantastic to have this facility to join with a group of writers, instead of dabbing at keys in the ether. I am reading ‘On Becoming a Writer’ and have also read Stephen King’s book on writing, both of which you recommended and have really enjoyed the journey so far. I love ‘Past the Shallows’ by Favel Parrett, and find it a hauntingly beautiful, well written and satisfying narrative, with a clean palette of precise language. I don’t know if you have read it, but it is worth a read.

    Reply
    • Natasha Lester

      I think cumbersome is a good word – the first half definitely has that quality about it. I think it does smooth out thereafter and become a quicker read or perhaps it’s just that, by then, as a reader, I got used to the style and was able to read through it more quickly.

      I spoke about Past The Shallows in a previous Book Chat and, like you, was haunted by it. I’m really looking forward to Favel’s next book, which is out in a couple of months I think. Here’s the link to my Book Chat about it if you’re interested: https://www.natashalester.com.au/2014/02/18/welcome-to-my-new-book-club/

      And good to hear you’re enjoying Becoming a Writer. Stephen King’s book is also great, so you’re in good company there! Thanks for dropping by!

      Reply
  9. Rae Hilhorst

    Hi Natasha, thanks for a fabulous post. I so hope you enjoy the Rosie Project, I loved it. I don’t think the Luminaries is for me, I love to seeing your videos and see you speak as you are so genuine. I am amazed that you can read so many books in the one month, I have book envy. Have you thought of raising the camera a bit higher so you are not looking down, I feel like I am sitting on a floor cushion. I don’t mean to be rude, sorry. Rae xxx

    Reply
    • Natasha Lester

      Thank you for your lovely feedback Rae and you’re not rude at all! In fact you’ll laugh when I tell you I had my laptop balanced on my Shakespeare box set, my Masters Thesis, my Macquarie dictionary and my Thesaurus, all in an attempt to get the screen a little higher. I was afraid it might topple off mid sentence so I didn’t add anything else to the pile but maybe I will next time!

      Reply
  10. Lee Kofman

    Natasha, this is such a pleasure to see you in person, out of the Twitter-land! You’re a very engaging speaker and your description of ‘On becoming a writer’ made me want to read this book. I’ll love to learn to be able to switch on my ‘writing brain’ at any time as you do!

    Reply
    • Natasha Lester

      Yes, it is nice to see people in a kind of real world isn’t it?! You would really love Becoming a Writer. I found myself underlining lots of sentences in it; it’s a real writers’ book. She’s a very wise lady. And thank you for visiting my blog too.

      Reply
    • Natasha Lester

      So many people have said such nice things about Bitter Greens that I’m looking forward to reading it even more now. Hopefully, I’ll be able to discuss it on Book Chat in a few months’ time. Thanks for visiting, Ashleigh!

      Reply
  11. littleblackdressproductions

    Sorry I’ve taken so long to weigh in on the Luminaries, especially since I was waiting with baited breathe for your summation. So here’s my theory…Since the book was written by a female, I assumed it would be written for a female audience however, I think this book would resonate better with male readers because basically its a wild west, new frontier style story in a sense. Woman want feeling and emotion in characters, whereas men tend to lean towards wanting facts and actions. I notice most of the reviews on the front and back cover of the Luminaries are reviews from men, which backs up my sentiments. I agree, I did not empathise with any of the characters to a deep extent, but I liked some and not others. Francis Carver was possibly the most interesting character, while I did not really understand the supposed ‘love story’ between Anna and Emery. What I did enjoy was the very clear picture I had of the landscape of Hokitika. I could picture the town, the port, the camps and the era very clearly. Catton did well in that area. What disappointed me the most was the sense of incompletition. I was left with unanswered questions, loose ends. I felt that some characters were built up but nothing really came of them. I agree, with a bit of editing and culling, it could have been a more compelling read. Needless to say, I felt a sense of achievement for reading it and part of an exclusive ‘I got through the Luminaries’ club!
    Moving on…I tried to buy the Rosie Project today but they were sold out…obviously I have not read it yet either! But I will.

    Reply
    • Natasha Lester

      Yes, the Anna/Emery love story was a storyline that just didn’t work for me. I think for the book to work, you had to believe that he just got himself so whacked out on opium that he vanished but that seemed so anti-climactic given the enormous build up. I really do believe she’s a fine writer but this book didn’t show off her talent.

      Reply

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