Inspiration in the stars

Where does inspiration come from? It is a question that has always interested me. Eleanor Catton is one writer who has turned her inspiration into something that has captured the imagination of a multitude of readers, including the judges of this year’s Man Booker prize. She was awarded the accolade last month, and this interview she describes how she wasn’t necessarily inspired by history (her book The Luminaries is set during the New Zealand gold rush), but by something else entirely.

“I lit upon the idea quite early that I wanted to use the zodiac as the key signature of the book. I needed a situation in which 12 men would be fixed in their relationship to one another and seven other figures would move in and out of this fixed wheel.”

As the interviewer here points out, this astrological influence might have stopped the organic development of the characters – they are described as “component parts of a wheel” (Catton’s description). Their destinies were already mapped out in the stars.

I’m a little bit put off by the length of The Luminaries (over 800 pages), but I do want to read it. Mainly because I have been to New Zealand and visited one of the towns that sprung up on the South Island during the gold rush. This particular town is called Ross, its claim to fame being the large 3.1 kg nugget found in 1909. It is an interesting subject and I’m looking forward to seeing how Catton has captured the time period in her award winning novel.



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