Deconstructing The Luminaries: a timeline

As the title implies, this post is intended for those who have read Eleanor Catton’s novel The Luminaries as it contains significant spoilers.

If you haven’t read the novel, try this review

Feb 1839 – the Sook warehouse in Kwangchow, China is raided, opium is found hidden in tea cartons and the elder Sook is executed; Sook Yongchen turns to Carver for help;

pre 1865 – After winning at the wheel in Lydia’s gambling establishment, Crosbie Wells accepts her hand in marriage instead of the payout money – which Lydia doesn’t have and never thought she would need since the wheel is crooked. Crosbie discovers a fortune in gold in the  highland gold field of Dunstan – £ 4000 (about $300,000 in today’s money)

1853 – Ah Sook arrives at Port Phillip, Australia, is robbed of all his money, tries to contact Carver, is beaten by Jeremy Shepard, takes refuge, is found by a buck-toothed woman -Margaret Shepard, given opium, begins to recover, goes to kill Carver, instead comes upon Jeremy Shepard, Margaret manages to save Sook by killing her husband; Sook is tried but found not guilty when Margaret testifies Jeremy killed himself; Carver is arrested for smuggling and sent to Cuckatoo Island for 10 years, hard labour;

July 1864 – Sook learns the released convict, Carver, has sailed to Victoria, Australia to look for gold

Jan. 18, 1865 – Carver meets Pritchard in Hokitika, NZ and offers to sell him opium, which he smuggles in, in tea cans;

April 27, 1865 – Anna Wetherell and Emery Staines meet briefly on their ship and arrive separately in Dunedin. Lydia Wells takes Anna under her wing. Lydia ascertains that the two, Anna and Staines- share the same birthday

Carver, posing as Frances Wells, starts a long con on Lauderback, threatening Lauderback that someone thinks he- Lauderback- was an associate of a man called Carver who committed a murder and this someone is out to take revenge on Lauderback. As a result, Carver/Francis Wells gets a position on the crew of Lauderback’s Godspeed. Carver and Lydia start shipping dresses to Melbourne, Australia in Lauderback’s name, ostensibly to be fashionably altered. Since Lauderback has been having an affair with Lydia Wells, this is a reasonable ruse.

May 11, 1865 – Crosbie discovers that the fortune he left in the safe at his wife Lydia’s is gone along with his papers and knows she has stolen them;
-May 12, 1865 – Lydia burns the morning paper so that Crosbie will not learn of the arrival of the steamer Active in port along with someone Crosbie has been waiting 12 years to see. This seems to be Lauderback who has previously always come when Crosbie was away. (Lauderback has come to figure out who is shipping in his name);
-a bottle of laudanum arrives and finds its way surreptitiously into Crosbie’s booze at Lydia’s hands;
-Carver, posing as Francis Wells, tells Lauderback he has cuckolded his ‘brother’ Crosbie Wells and forces him to sign over the Godspeed to him;
-Lydia prepares for a party for ‘gentleman with naval connections’ in her home/gambling house ;
-Staines spends the afternoon watching over a trunk labelled with Lauderback’s name, due to sail on the Godspeed, ostensibly for a man named Wells, but actually Carver;
-A Chinese man is looking for an ex-con who did time on Cuckatoo Island, i e, Carver:

-in the evening Crosbie Wells escapes Carver’s attack cutting Carver’s face in a c-shape from eye to mouth, while Anna’ sleeps’ nearby in Crosbie’s bed (the origin of her addiction?);
-Crosbie flees to the docks, discovers Carver’s efforts to ship a trunk to Hokitika in Lauderback’s name, diverts it and takes passage to Hokitika;
-the Godspeed leaves without the wounded Carver, still under Phillip’s command because Carver has not yet claimed ownership.
June 14, 1865 – the Godspeed returns to port in Dunedin and newly scarred Carver takes over as owner/captain and sails to Hokitika

June 18, 1865 – Staines meets Crosbie Wells in Hokitika, tells him about watching the trunk for Carver and the fact Carver is his partner, having stood him £ 8 for supplies; Staines cashes Crosbie’s nugget at the bank for him and is rewarded;
Carver begins his search for Crosbie Wells and for the missing trunk in Hokitika by placing an ad in the name of F. Crosbie Wells;
Anna and Staines are surprised and delighted to meet. (See cosmic twins theory in comments.)

July 28, 1865 – George Shepard (governor of the gaol, the late Jeremy’s brother and now Margaret’s husband) sees Sook Yongsheng; Anna, pregnant with Crosbie’s child and exiled by Lydia, arrives on the Godspeed and is taken under the wing of Clinch, who runs the Gridiron Hotel; she doesn’t know Crosbie is living an hour outside town; she is actually working for Mannering; a trunk full of silk dresses is salvaged from the wreck of the Titania and Anna buys them from the salvagers.
-Staines buys the Gridiron Hotel from Mannering
-Staines tells Anna Crosbie is in Hokitika

Anna begins plying her new trade as a prostitute and taking opium at Sook’s place in Chinatown in Kanniere

Sept 20, 1865 – Ah Quee having discovered the stash of gold in Anna’s dresses while she slept off her opium, removes the last it, except for that in the orange dress, which she never wears while working; (previously -Ah Quee smelts all this gold, stamps it with the name Aurora, Staines’ claim, which was initially salted by Mannering and is actually worthless; Ah Quee expects his boss to bank it and pay him his paltry share: Staines takes it instead and buries it on Maori land)

Oct 11, 1865 – Anna tells Crosbie’s story to Staines; Anna loses her unborn child having suffered a blow, ostensibly from Carver who did hit her, but the serious injury was caused by his horse rearing; she gives the impression Carver was the child’s father and accuses him of killing her child;  Crosbie, at Staines’ instruction, draws up a gift of deed assigning half the fortune in gold to Anna and signs it, but Staines does not, having fallen asleep;
Crosbie (p.673)- digs up the gold bars and stashes them in his home;

Jan 12, 1866 – Lauderback’s shipping container, containing his books, letters and the deed of ‘sale’ of the sailing ship Godspeed to Carver arrives on the Virtue but is misdirected and does not arrive at Balfour’s office;

Tauwhare betrays Crosbie Wells to Carver, telling him where Crosbie lives

Jan 14, 1866 – Wearing her orange dress, Anna goes to Staines’ home for the night; while he is sleeping, she goes back to her room at the Gridiron Hotel to take opium, intending to return to Staines;
-while she is gone Staines wakes up, goes out, falls and hits his head;
-extremely high, Anna falls, hits her head and ends up collapsed on Christchurch Rd: -Carver uncorks a phial of opium (again see cosmic twin theory in comments); Crosbie drinks half a phial of opium on top of a good deal of alcohol;
-after finding the stash of gold bars in Crosbie’s cabin, Carver puts a piece of paper in Crosbie’s stove; next he needs to alert the widow, Lydia to claim it;
-Lauderback arrives from his trek over the alps to find his half-brother, Crosbie dead; -Lauderback finds Anna lying on the road; unconscious Anna is put in jail;
-Staines, also suffering concussion, falls on Gibson Quay and is nailed into a shipping crate;
-eventually Tauwhare reports having seen Lauderback and his 2 men arrive at Crosbie’s cabin on this day, after another man has also visited;

Jan 15/16, 1866 – Annie gets bail, leaves jail and she and Gascoigne remove the gold from the orange dress and hide it under his bed; Crosbie is buried by Devlin; Nillsen discovers the fortune in gold bars  after being hired to clear the dead man’s cabin and gets paid £400;
-Balfour tells Lauderback his container has not yet arrived instead of telling him it is lost; -Lauderback discovers that he ‘sold’ Godspeed to Francis Carver, not Crosbie Wells; previously he had thought that Carver (Francis Wells) was Crosbie’s half brother, extorting Godspeed as retribution for Lauderback’s cuckolding Crosbie; Lauderback knows now that he has been conned by Lydia, Wells’ widow, and Carver.

Jan 17 – Lydia arrives and makes a claim on the fortune at the bank; Frost tells Mannering the fortune was stolen; Mannering and Frost visit Ah Quee to force the truth from him; Balfour visits Lowenthal on the Sabbath;
Clinch buys Crosbie’s property and gives Frost £30 finder’s fee; Lydia arrives in Hokitika and lays claim to the fortune;

Jan 17, 1866 – Pritchard confronts Anna about the opium she took on Jan 14th. her gun goes off and Staines, now an opium addict, hiding behind the drapes is shot (or locked in a crate on board ship, he suffers a bullet wound thus preventing injury to Anna -cosmic twin theory); Gascoigne agrees to bring Anna to meet Lydia, but becomes angry when Anna asks him for help to pay her rent from the gold found in her orange dress and in G’s keeping, so does not; Lydia goes and gets Anna and takes her under her wing again; Staines gets away unseen but gravely wounded;

Jan 27, 1866 – Walter Moody sees a bloody apparition start up at him from a container, saying Magdalena; Moody arrives in Hokitika, but the ship he was on has to remain anchored beyond the reef because of bad weather; Moody meets the 12 worthies in the smoking room of the Crown Hotel and listens to their stories, which are bits and pieces, scrambled and misunderstood of the above events:
-the Godspeed is wrecked;

Feb 18, 1866 – Gascoinge advises Carver how to claim insurance for the wrecked Godspeed;  Lydia holds a seance to summon Staines’s ghost and instead “speaks” in Cantonese Sook’s words vowing revenge on Carver for causing his father’s execution; Ah Sook learns Carver is in Hokitika and forms a plan to kill him; Shepard writes a letter to the newspaper admitting he has used private money to build the new jail and lies that it was a gift from Nillsen; Lauderbank’s trunk is delivered to Moody by mistake and Moody learns Crosbie was Lauderback’s half-brother;

Mar 20, 1866 – Devlin talks to Anna while Lydia is out and shows her the unsigned deed of gift, assigning Anna half the fortune; Anna forges Staines signature despite the fact she is illiterate; Ah Sook buys a gun and has it loaded; Shepard puts out a warrant for Ah Sook’s arrest; Ah Quee is mistaken for Ah Sook and attacked in town: Mannering rescues him; Sook seeks refuge with Margaret Shepard who eventually betrays him; Shepard shoots Sook: Staines turns up and is treated for his wounds and is imprisoned beside Anna who is also back there;

April 27, 1866 – Anna’s trial for attempted suicide, public intoxication and grievous assault on Staines begins -Walter Moody for the defense; during Lauderback’s testimony, Carver is arrested for fraud against Lauderback when Crosbie’s signature on the Godspeed’s bill of sale is proven to be forged; Carver is murdered by Tauwhare while being transported to jail; Staines’ testimony that he was hiding in Anna’s room, high on her opium when he was accidentally shot, clears Anna of the most serious charge; Anna is acquitted of all charges;

Staines, charged with falsification of a report, embezzlement of ore and dereliction of duty, pleads guilty to all charges, is found guilty and sentenced to nine months hard labour.

The luminaries look forward to a loving life together in nine months.

If you find errors or can add detail, please leave a comment. I intend to keep revising as needed.


92 thoughts on “Deconstructing The Luminaries: a timeline

  1. Thanks for the post, it is useful to have a summary of the novel. It looks as if you have mixed up some of the locations at the start, Port Phillip and the State of Victoria are in Australia where some of the earlier action took place. After that the novel shifts to Hokitika on the west coast of New Zealand

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  4. This is where I’m stuck. Stains gets nailed into a crate on Jan 14th and the God Speed sails out of Hokitika. Then, on Jan 17th, Stains is shot while hiding behind the curtain in Anna’s room. But then on Jan 27th, The God Speed returns to Hokitika and Moody finds Stains (bloody, presumably due to being shot) nailed into a crate on the God Speed. So how did Stains end up in Anna’s room on the 17th when he was nailed in a crate and sailing on the God Speed from Jan 17th through Jan 27th? Would love an answer to this- it’s driving me crazy! Thanks!

    • I don’t know. That has baffled me. Is it a mistake? Surely not. Catton has been meticulous. I’m going to take another look at this weekend. Initially I thought it was an error. Then I convinced myself that it worked, but I think you are right. I’ll let you know if I come up with anything.

      • You’re missing the fact that they’re ‘cosmic twins’ or something to that effect – it’s what Lydia says when she sees they’re born on the same day. The idea is that what happens to one happens to the other, so when one smokes opium the other gets high too, explaining why Anna faints in the courthouse. As for the gunshot, Anna tries to shoot herself, but it actually shoots Emery (who’s locked in the crate). There’s an element of ‘supernatural’ (call it what you want) that I think a lot of people miss in this book.

  5. I had another look at this inconsistency. I found in the last chapter’s heading (Jan 14, 1866) – p.825?- “Staines makes a misstep on Gibson Quay and collapses………The lid of a shipping crate is nailed into place.” All of these last headings or summaries are enigmatic. For example, we don’t know exactly what Carver does with the vial he opens, but we can figure it out because earlier he and Lydia spiked Crosbie’s booze with laudanum. In this case, Catton may be misleading us. Lots of cartons get nailed shut on Gibson Quay. This one doesn’t necessarily contain Staines. It is true that Catton isn’t above toying with her readers. On the other hand, we could blame the editor who didn’t catch a mistake.

    • Oh, I like this! Catton said “crate is nailed”, and she said Emery slipped and fell. She does not tell us he fell INTO a crate. So maybe he was in Anna’s room this whole time, and was indeed behind the drapes when the bullet “disappeared” into his shoulder. And what Moody saw in the crate was ..??.. hallucination?

  6. Emery is nailed into the crate on January 14th. He is still in there on January 17th. The story he tells the court about being stood behind the curtains and being hit by the first bullet is a lie to ensure that Anna is found not guilty. What actually happens in this: While in the crate, Emery is sustained by his connection with Anna – she is eating but getting thinner because Emery is benefiting from the food she consumes. Then, when Moody releases Emery from the crate, he suddenly starts to bleed from a wound that appears out of nowhere. This is caused by the first bullet fired in Anna’s room, which disappears from that location but, via Anna and Emery’s connection, arrives where Emery is and injures him. At least I think that’s what happens…

  7. Thanks, Ben. Karen sent me a long email in which she outlined pretty much the same idea. I can see that my desperation to understand made me take too literal an interpretation. I dislike this tendency, especially in interpreting religious writing. Just a bit chastened, me. I think I may have to read the book a third time.

    • Just revisiting this thread after so long. It makes me want to read the book a 3rd time!

      Here is the email that I sent to Joyce, which she refers to above:

      As you suggested in your response, I do think that Catton is playing with us a little- offering us different options for interpreting the story. I think that one of those options is to consider some explanations that are rooted in the supernatural. That said, here’s my latest interpretation (please forgive in advance poor grammar and run-on sentences…I just have to get this down!) :

      I think:
      Staines does end up on the boat after his night with Anna, and that is where he remains until the shipwreck, after which he is found wounded in Crosbie’s cabin. (Here’s where things get a little crazy) His wound IS from Anna’s gun, but not because he was in her room. SHE actually would have taken the bullet, but he took it for her while on the boat. This happened because the two of them had fallen in love and ‘become one’. Walter Moody describes him as being like a phantom or apparition, so he is not 100% there, divided between being on the boat and being with Anna on land.

      Why I think this:
      Toward the very end of the book when Catton re-caps the evening that Anna and Staines spend together, Stains is described as wandering aimlessly after Anna takes the opium, and Anna wandering aimless after Staines hits his head. So they are already experiencing what the other physically experiences. So at this point they have ‘become one person’ due to their love. Staines makes a few comments throughout the book to this effect. Anna also discusses how she knows without doubt that he is alive, that she can see his dreams, including his dreams of her, and at another point in the book he also sees her dreams about her involvement in a séance and gold sewn into a dress, etc. The reason that Anna becomes so thin and is wasting away when she lives with Lydia, is because Staines is wasting away as he wanders injured through the forest in search of his gold after he leaves the ship wreck. This is also why she passes out at the bankers office, despite the fact that she had NOT been using opium as she was accused. Staines had also collapsed from weakness. She begins to recover when he begins to recover. The stories about him hiding behind the curtain and living in the opium den were made up at the trial at the suggestion of Walter Moody who was representing them. He definitely encouraged them and others to tell a number of lies in their defense.

  8. Why isn’t Lydia Wells imprisoned along with Carver since she was clearly complicit with the blackmail/fraud?

      • Lydia got Carver’s portion of Stain’s gold minus the insurance payments according to the banker’s accounting at the end. She was clearly implicated as an accomplice in the blackmail/fraud so if Carver was imprisoned for that I couldn’t understand why she got a pass.

  9. I loved this book but like so many other fans I’m still pondering the twists and turns. Thanks for helping me feel satisfied about some of them. I have another spanner to throw in the works. When Ah Sook utters his dying word ,”Margaret” was he naming her as his betrayer or was he attempting to tell Shepard that it was not him but Margaret who was his brother’s killer? I can’t reconcile Margaret’s efforts to hide Sook under her bed and the trouble she went to in disguising him with her later betrayal. What possible motive could she have? If she wanted rid of Ah Sook why help him at all, she could have sent him on his way as soon as she’d closed the door on Carver.

    • Yes he was trying to tell him that Margaret was the one to kill his brother and not him. I am also confused why she gave him up to Shepard but I feel like it wasn’t something she actually wanted to do.
      It is mentioned that she has several injuries (healed) like a broken nose, it made me assume she has had to deal with an abusive husband that was blaming her for the faith of his brother, or the clearing of sook in the trial. Either way, he seems like a person that would beat it out of her. She might have been trying to help sook and cover it up as much as she could (by giving him an ‘English-makeover’) only to have her husband terrorize her into telling him all about it.
      Sook then in the encounter with Shepard seems very shocked she had betrayed him, which gave him the helpless courage to betray her as well and admit to Shepard that she killed his brother. Only it didn’t work because Shepard didn’t listen.

  10. Hello! Thank you for the nice timeline! I have a few questions:
    1) (14 Jan, 1866; The Luminaries) Why does Shepard sit in gaol-house, his rifle laid across his knees???
    2) (14 Jan, 1866; The Luminaries) Why does Lydia Wells spin her wheel of fortune twice and then laughs long and gaily?
    3) (11 Oct, 1865; The Descendant) Why is it important that “Staines forgot both his wallet and his hat at the stables, and as he rode out, almost charged down H. Nilssen with a paper sac beneath his arm”? What did Nilssen buy?
    4) (27 Jan, 1866; A sphere within a sphere; cca page 330) Is there a meaning to Albert trying reaaaaly hard to get Nilssen to the theater?
    5) (20 Mar, 1866; Saturn in Virgo) Why is it improtant that Quee gets confused for Sook and almost beaten? Is that fact important somewhere else in the story?
    If someone could put some light to these mysteries, I would be most grateful! 🙂

    • Hi, I certainly dont have the answers but have a few theories.
      1) This is possibly to do with the gun shot that is heard just after Carver slaps Anna (which possibly leads to the horse kicking Anna in the stomach causing a miscarriage. The book says something about the horse being frightened I believe).
      2)This all happens on page 831 – or the intro to part twelve for anyone not reading the same version. She spins once to coincide with Moody disembarking onto foreign soil, a second time to coincide with Carver coming upon the excavated fortune, then laughs long and gaily to coincide with Carver putting the piece of paper, that has Emery giving half his fortune to Anna, in the fire. It seems as though she spins once and Crosbie wins and she gives her hand in marriage as a reward. She spins the second time and he loses – he ends up dead. Lydia laughs as Crosbie is dead, she can marry Carver and they have a fortune. As a side note I also think that the wheel of fortune depicts a recurring theme in the book – things coming full circle. The gold is found by Crosbie, goes through all the stages of being stolen etc… but comes back to him in the end.
      3) Nilssen exits Tiegreens Hardware with a paper sack under his arm. Tiegreens is where Ah Sook bought the pistol, and so it can only be assumed that Nilssen also bought a gun. This is another possibility of where the gunshot came from, although I cant think who Nilssen would want to shot, apart from possibly himself from the guilt of causing Lauderback the shame of having to publically reveal that he was having an affair with Lydia.
      4) I really didnt understand this part either. My thoughts where that the boy couldnt go unless accompanied by an adult and didnt think anyone else would accompany him except Nilssen. Maybe there is more to it, it does seem a strange interaction to add in without any meaning.
      5) I had a quick look but couldnt find this part. From memory Ah Quee does get quite a beating from 2 men who initially believe that he is Sook, but even when they discover he isnt, they continue beating him for information on Sooks whereabouts. Mannering rescues him and I believe there is some dialogue between them but cant remember what it was, but maybe that is an important interaction?

  11. Jan 14, 1886 – After Anna and Staines spend the night together, Staines wakes up,has a concussion, falls on Gibson Quay and is nailed inside a shipping crate. Jan 17, 1866 – Anna’s gun goes off, and Staines, now an opium addict, hiding behind the drapes, is shot. But Staines was already bleeding from a gunshot wound while inside the crate – this was what Moody saw, was it not?

  12. This is fabulous, thank you! I am just finishing The Luminaries for the 2nd time (reading and listening). I tried to check the astrology against the personalities and it’s pretty good – very complex novel – reminds me of the Quincunx by Charles Palliser.

  13. Re #3 above, Ah Sook did NOT buy his pistol at Tiegreen’s hardware. (20 March 1866 section, Mars in Aquarius chapter, p 586 in my copy): “Sook Yongsheng, after making his five-pound purchase at Brunton, Solomon & Barnes that morning…”
    I thought there was some connection between the “muff pistol” that Margaret used to shoot her husband Jeremy Shephard, and the “muff pistol” that Anna had. Catton also made special note that when Jeremy tried to shoot Ah Sook, a spent cartridge in the revolver caused it to misfire. So when Anna’s gun misfired I thought back to that and thought it might have been due to a spent cartridge, and I remembered that a “muff pistol” had been fired once before in the shooting of Jeremy Shephard. A very big “coincidence”, probably, but that is what occurred to me when I read it.
    As for George Shephard sitting with the rifle across his knees, I thought that was Catton just making sure we knew what night was being discussed — it is mentioned earlier in the book that George is sitting with a rifle across his knees on the night that Gascoigne makes Anna’s acquaintance and pretends to receive the bail money from her. (p 214 in my copy, 27 Jan 1866 section, Sun in Capricorn, 2nd page: “Gascoigne knelt before her…She…pulled him closer still, out of sight of the gaoler who was sitting by the door with a rifle on his knees.”

  14. Albert is trying to persuade Nilsen to go to the theatre because Albert has partly read the letter that Nilsen had just sent to Pritchard (Albert being his assistant). The letter mentioned an important council that night. The boy is intrigued and he admits to wanting to know what it is about. I read it as Albert trying to get out of Nilsen what Nilsen was up to that evening and asking why Nilsen wouldn’t attend the theatre in the hope Nilsen would slip up and admit to what he was up to that night. At least that is how I read it!

  15. Thank you for your in-put. I am in a strange position now. Readers of this post are closer to the material than I am now. I haven’t reread the book for some months. I going to leave it up to you to comment and sort things out. I will of course monitor comments.

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  17. An interesting novel, but so many questions left to be answered:
    1. Adrian Moody’s arrival in Hokitika. What purpose does this serve to the narrative?
    2. Who killed Francis Carver and what was the motive?
    3. Is there a pre-established connection between Moody and Carver?

    • Re: #3 – I remember reading about conversation between Lydia and Carver and talking about Walter Moody. They were talking about how he must have sailed under a different name, because they couldn’t find him in the paper. I think that they also mentioned his father in the same conversation, so it must be a connection.

    • Hi Joe – In regards to your question 1, I think it has to do with Moody being identified with the Roman god Mercury (on that page at the beginning of the book). This means that he is identified with the god of messages, communication, and divination, among other things. Moody is the connection between a lot of the characters, at least in terms of the reader’s knowledge of the story. So I see him as a messenger and communicator, both for us and for those in the novel.

      Interestingly, Mercury is also the god of eloquence (which makes sense given Moody’s expert defense of both Anna and Staines). Finally, Mercury is a psychopomp (ie, the god that escorts recently dead souls to the underworld). This may explain why he sees barely alive/ghost Staines on the ship, although I admit this is a bit ‘out there.’ 🙂

  18. Who murdered Carver is answered at the end of my summary in the last paragraph. It is revenge for the murder of Crosby by opium poisoning. I invite others to respond to to #1, but I assume it is to establish the Hokitika setting and other details we need about the dangerous harbour. #3 not that I know of. Again please look at all the prior comments.

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  21. I have listened to the book CDs 1.5 times. Great! The reader who reads the book to me via the CD player allows me to keep the pace (wells, sort of). I few themes that I “found” after 1.5. Theme 1. Understanding. No one in the book really understands the other. Sook does not understand Mannering. Frost does not understand Mannering. Lydia is not understood by anyone-Lydia Greenway or Carver or Wells. Theme 2. Everyone is guilty. Everyone is part of the murder of Crosbie Wells! But was he murdered? By whom? Theme 3. Everything is up side down, Everything is back side up. In NZ (compared to London) north is south and south is north and the POLE STAR (to guide our way; to keep us centered) has vanished. We are lost. Theme 4. Catton the author is in control. Reader be AWARE. The author could have provided a timeline. She didn’t. The author could have provided a less angular path, a less anxious road to follow, a less who’s who and a more what is what. She didn’t. Theme 5. How to read a book. Why read? Why write? Reading Catton and listening to Catton is like experiencing a great symphony. Why did Mozart write the way he did? Why listen? Listening to the Requiem again and again provides a new, richer experience, Reading Catton teaches how to read and listen and in part understand. We become the book. The book is confused, backward, lost, a part of the puzzle of why we read and write and communicate our failures to understand. What we have here is a failure to communicate.(Cool Hand).Eleanor Catton is a cool hand indeed. Theme 6. The Bible or the bible…

  22. Thank you so much for posting this. It has reinforced my decision to give up trying to continue reading this book – lol. I already felt like I needed a cheat sheet to keep up with who’s who and who’s done what to whom. The fact that even this clear deconstruction is totally confusing to me is as good a reason as any to try something less complex.

  23. Just finished the book about 20 minutes ago and came straight here – I’m glad I did as it helped clear a lot of things up! Incidentally, I think my favourite chapters in the book were Moody’s (the one at the end of Part 1 and the trial scene) where he sums up everything we know so far.

    I love the cosmic twin theory, so thanks to who suggested that, it makes a lot of sense.

    One thing I will question though is Carver’s murder. You’ve mentioned that Tauwhare did it. Is this mentioned in the book? I don’t recall seeing anything like that, maybe I missed it.

      • I have just finished the book and wow!!! Reading all of these comments have certainly made things easier to process. However I am confused:

        So…Carver along with Lydia stole Crosbie’s fortune and bought Godspeed with the stolen gold/money.

        Staines strikes gold and hides it in Crosbie’s house/on his land.

        Where did the gold in the dresses come from?! Who does it belong to?

        Thank you 🙂

      • Lydia sewed the gold into dresses and sent them supposedly to be altered. It’s part of Crosbie’s stash. The ship carrying the dresses was wrecked and the trunk salvaged.Anna bought the dresses. ETc

      • Claire, from what I read, Carver & Lydia took Crosbie’s gold out of the safe and sewed it into the dresses. No money was paid for the Godspeed – Carver blackmailed Lauderback forcing him to turn it over. The gold Stains burries comes from the dresses – the chinese dude who was working the Aurora claim for Stains finds it while she is passed out on opium, steals it (though he justified it as not stealing), melts it into bars marked as coming from the Aurora – that way he would get his bonus when Stains claimed it (which he did not do and winds up in jail for).

    • I know I’m very late writing this, but if you recall the first time Carver met Tauwhare, Carver asks him about a paddle shaped club he is carrying upon his hip. Tauwhare tells Carver what it is (it’s made from the greenstone he finds) and then mimicks hitting Carver in the thoat and temple with it. He also says it is ‘harder than steel’. As we later find out, Carver was killed by a blow to the head in transit to the gaol house. Not only this, but just before the wagon sets off Tauwhare was observing the clasp, so perhaps contemplating opening it. I think this means Tauwhare was responsible, and most likely because he believes Carver was responsible for his friend Crosbie’s death.

      • Tau whare also knew it was Carver who entered Crosbies house before Lauderback and his two guys found him dead. Book only discloses that Tauwhare said he saw a man enter before lauderback and co arrive.

  24. Here is an issue where I am stuck: how did Staines become publicly known as being very rich? He buried the Ah Quee gold after all. Why does everyone know him as the richest man in Hokitika?

    • It was because of the gold nugget, and because of the money that Crosbie paid him to exchange the nugget. There is a description of Staines taking the nugget into the bank, wanting to be under the radar, and failing because everyone cheered when his nugget’s value was announced. People congratulated him as he left and there was some talk earlier in the novel about how a big success was enjoyed by everyone. Mannering mentioned the gold nugget to Staines when the latter left Dunelin (sp). So I got the feeling that word travels.

      Also, Staines bought the Gridiron Hotel, perhaps with the money from Crosbie. A big purchase like that would mark a man as wealthy in a small community.

  25. Ok, probably just being stupid but when/how did the crate containing an unconscious Staines end up on the Godspeed (for the apparition to be seen by Moody)? Staines was accidentally nailed into a crate on Gibson Quay, Hokitika, on 14 Jan 1866. Moody arrives in Hokitika via the Godspeed on 27 January, with a storm meaning the ship couldn’t land. He presumably saw the apparition around the 27th during the storm. So, when did the crate containing Moody get loaded onto the Godspeed? Surely the Godspeed was at sea on the 14th and up to its arrival at Hokitika.

      • Specifically, check out Joyce’s June 1st 2015 post in which I copied/pasted a previous post from Feb 2014

    • It’s been a long time now since I read the book so I won’t try to answer this question outright, but I am 100% certain that we discussed this precise question in a previous exchange. So definitely scroll back through the history of this blog and you’ll find you’re answer!

  26. Tauwhere was asked to go on the ride with carver and the man transporting him. The narration said something such as, “tau where looked at the unhitched latch” and he said no. Then, when carver is found to be dead, the driver comes back screaming that carver is dead. He said someone must had opened the latch. I thought that meant that he may have done it. But I don’t know how the driver wouldn’t have noticed him get on and get off. Also, wouldn’t have carver had screamed? My other thought, since tau where didn’t strike me as very violent and his motive wasnt that strong, was again supernatural . Lydia at the seance spoke another language very well. I thought maybe she was channeling the spirit of ah sooks father. Maybe now that ah Sook was dead, he finally took his revenge on carver. Catton foreshadowed it in a way with that seance, in which Lydia did seem distraught.

    I definitely believe the cosmic twin theory. Anna said she no longer had a taste for the opium, that it didn’t affect her. That’s because it was affecting staines instead. When staines is found, he says that he has never touched opium. I believe that’s true. He was affected by opium because Anna was taking it. And that’s why Anna was so weak despite eating a lot. They said staines looked like someone had been feeding him. That was Anna. Her nourishment was going to him. And yes he recalled the dresses and other flashes of what happened with Anna. She also could see a bit of what he was experiencing, that’s how she signed his signature.

    Also someone had asked how people knew staines was rich. I thought he came from a rich family which was partially why he was traveling in cognito, saying he was Edward.

    I was confused by how Anna lost the baby. It seemed very unclear. I thought it said something about she was having a procedure. I thought it was an abortion. But maybe she was just being treated after she lost the baby. The horse kick theory sounds like it could be true.. I thought when the gun went off that it was someone who saw carver slap Anna and that they shot the gun as a warning.

    • OTHER READERS ARE INVITED TO RESPOND TO THESE COMMENTS. Although I thought initially that she lost the baby as a result of being struck by Carver,but later I bought into the horse kick theory. It was certainly not an abortion.

  27. I’m so glad I found this site – it has been very helpful in answering a bunch of questions I had – thanks to everyone!

    Still unanswered are these: what ends up happening to the gold hidden under Gascoign’s bed? Who ends up with the 4,096 pounds of gold in the end?

  28. No one’s commented for a few months but I’d like to say how much I’ve appreciated this thread, having just finished the book myself. Thank goodness for Google. I thought the book was amazing, although I’m reassured to see my difficulties with it weren’t solely due to me being slow off the mark. Thanks all for the time you’ve taken dissecting the bits that were bothering me!

  29. Confused on one more point: At trial, Staines claimed he was under the care of Sook. However, this seems incredibly unlikely given that we followed his life up until his murder. Where was Staines during this time?

  30. Hi just finished the book. Can someone clarify if Crosbie intended to kill himself? The book says Carver opens the bottle of phial; And Crosbie drinks the phial. Did Carver go to kill Crosbie? When he arrived, was Crosbie already passed out? If so, why did he commit suicide?

    • Since I am replying so late you probably know the answer already, but it says above in the timeline: -a bottle of laudanum arrives and finds its way surreptitiously into Crosbie’s booze at Lydia’s hands; all Carver had to do to kill off Crosby was to mix that with alcohol and they have a drink or something. Carver wanted to kill Crosby when he went to his place, yes.

  31. Pingback: The Luminaries: timeline question | 115 journals

  32. Pingback: The Luminaries: timeline question | 115 journals

  33. Pingback: The Luminaries « How does it taste?... Bittersweet!

  34. Great work. I searched for this timeline for awhile and am glad I found it. While reading I also drew character interactions diagrams and also read all the comments above, so I will not pose any questions or repeated questions. The following observations do not have to be answered, but I still wonder the reason why Staines took the gold and buried it – that gold which was meant to be banked against Aurora claim and which Ah Quee hoped Staines would turn to profit? What information about the gold Staines knew at that point?
    I also do not understand why Staines just left the hut of Crosby the morning after he fell asleep and did not sigh the deed to Anna. Couldn’t he just signed it in the morning and then left? Why did not he say anything about the deed to Anna when they met later on and slept together?
    It also feels strange to me that Staines then “just turns up” at Crosby’s cottage while being imprisoned in a crate before? An escape? How? etc.

    • I posted your comment. Someone else may be able to answer. One long ago comment suggests that not all events are on the usual plane of reality. I read the book twice,but now I feel like a different person living on another planet. Please post again if you figure this out.

    • Staines buries the gold – I think – because he has the measure of Carver now and doesn’t want him getting a penny of gold from their operation. (Carver would be entitled to half).

      What I find confusing is why Staines
      wouldn’t query how Quee came to find 4K worth of gold on his duffer claim…

      And also, how did the gold get from Staines’ secret place to Crosbie’s cottage? Did Crosbie betray Staines (and if so why?) did Staines dig it up and hide it at Crosbie’s (if so why go to the trouble of burying it in the first place or why not hide it in his own home?) did Te Wahare dig it up (if so was this from a tip off from Crosbie or a fluke?) I can only assume Crosbie dug it up. Staines started looking for it when he came out of his coma, suggesting he thought it was still there- But by then it had already been found in Crosbie’s cottage. So Crosbie either betrayed his friend or realised it was his stolen gold – but how could he have realised that (his gold wasn’t stamped Aurora) and how did he plan to explain this to Staines?

      I agree it’s a flaw that Staines doesn’t simply sign the paper when he wakes up at Crosbie’s. I suppose we’re asked to believe that it just got sort of forgotten about in their hungover states?

      • I’m going to forward your reply to my niece who has just finished reading the book for the second time. I last read it in 2014 and am no longer confident of my recall.

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