Walter Mood lands in Hokitika New Zealand on a dark and stormy night and happens upon a secret council of 11 men discussing a mystery (well a few intertwined mysteries). We discover pretty quickly that Francis Carver is a bad guy, but it takes 800 pages to piece together the extent of his perfidy. The first 350 pages of the book tells the story through the eyes of the the men in the council. The final 500 pages flesh out the story to make sense, piece-by-piece, of theft, swindles, murder(?) and love.
The novel is structured according to the astrological signs, where each of the 12 men (Moody plus the original council) represent one of the signs. At least I think that is the intent. Not knowing much about astrology, that aspect of the story was a closed book to me. I particularly like the subheadings of the chapters “In which…” that gives a brief, tantalizing summary of the events which will unfold. Unfortunately, the summaries grow to the length of the chapters themselves in the last section. It seemed that Catton was tiring of writing and “told” the story at the end rather than “showing”.
If you plan to read this, I suggest picking a time where you can give some dedicated time to the first section of 350 pages; the story is very complex, made especially so by the telling of different aspects by the council
I picked this book up because it won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction, which “is a literary prize awarded each year for the best original novel, written in the English language, by a citizen of the Commonwealth of Nations, the Republic of Ireland, or Zimbabwe.”(Wikipedia). I also have read Hillary Mantel’s “Bring Up The Bodies” which won the prize in 2012. I haven’t like the Booker winners nearly as much as the committee – I’m sure they see much more in it.