Someone somewhere will undoubtedly write a dissertation on the astrological significance of this novel, but it won’t be me. I read and subsequently ignored the Author’s Note to the Reader and the Character Chart and just lost myself in the story. This book is a majestic and epic accomplishment. An outsider arrives. A story unfolds. Then the outsider becomes part of the story. Catton manages a huge ensemble of characters in a deft and sophisticated manner. I feel like I would know any of them if I ran into them on the street. She also conjures late 19th century New Zealand with remarkable clarity. There is a mystery at the center of this tale, but if you don’t waste  your time trying to solve it, you will end up just enjoying the way Catton unravels it, the violence and the racism as well as the humanity and the sweetness.

And Catton wrote this when she was 28. What will she do next?

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