Study Guide

The Luminaries Family

By Eleanor Catton

Family

Family is kind of a, er, touchy subject for a lot of our characters in The Luminaries. Sure, as we mentioned in "Foreignness," the goldfields present men with the opportunity to make a new family for themselves with their fellow diggers. However, a lot of the characters have some family drama in their past that's hard to escape—or, worse, that's bubbling up into their present in ways they don't like (and/or can't control). Look at Alistair Lauderback, whose half-brother, Crosbie, is being used to blackmail him—that's definitely a case of the sins of the father coming back to bite you in the tushy.

Also, there's a lot of revenge on behalf of dead relatives going on: Sook is going after Carver to avenge his father's death, and Shepard goes after Sook because he (mistakenly) believes Sook killed his brother. In the words of Lorelai Gilmore, "Nothing like a family to ruin a family."

Questions About Family

  1. If standard family relationships aren't that important in a gold town, why does the novel draw so much attention to them throughout the novel?
  2. What do you make of some of the family-like bonds that non-related characters form? Which characters really are bonded like family, and what do you make of these relationships?
  3. Why do you think Catton has Moody's father show up at the very end of the main narrative, only to never show us their reunion (that is, if such a reunion ever even happens)? What is the importance of that plot point to the whole?

Chew on This

Catton makes family kind of a slippery or fluid concept to highlight the way class and social boundaries are getting fainter in that particular context and at that particular time.

Moody's father shows up at the end to highlight the fact that the past will always come to bite you in the butt—that is, that the desire to reinvent yourself and your family can only go so far.

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