A multilayered and complex tale set in 1866 Hokitika, New Zealand at the time of the gold rush. Walter Moody, a young man set on a course to make his own fortune stumbles into a meeting with a council of twelve men gathered to discuss a delicate and confidential matter. On hearing of his training as an attorney, he is drawn into their story. The discovery of the body of Crosbie Wells, a notorious local drunk, in his cottage and the alleged suicide attempt of ‘lady of the night’ Anna Wetherell on the leads to the discovery, eventually of the role of those around them leading to their current condition.
Reading this book seems daunting at the start because there are a host of characters, whom Catton describes very well, and she assigns them astrological labels, which I confess means very little to me and only added to my confusion when I read this book. However, the mystery and suspense woven in the first part of the book drew me in despite my ignorance of astrological charts and by the time I was 45% of the way through I had become hooked into the complex telling of this story.
The narrative in the first half takes a bit of getting used to but the readers patience is paid off in the parts that follow as the complex web is gently unravelled to satisfy our curiosity. This book took me a total of twenty-two hours to read over five days and I thoroughly enjoyed it as I was consumed with the time, setting and characters. There is no doubt at all that this story is ingeniously crafted and expertly told.
The first prize winning book, I have read that totally blew me away and I am glad I put my scepticism aside to read it.
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