''Sweet and approachable'' was how one fan described Booker
Prize winner Eleanor Catton after she signed a copy of The
Luminaries at the Dunedin Writers and Readers Festival.
On Saturday night, Catton appeared in conversation with
journalist Finlay Macdonald at Toitu Otago Settlers Museum,
after which she signed copies of the book and chatted with
Cara Moffat, of Dunedin, said she had learnt more about the
author in the conversation with Mr Macdonald, and was
particularly interested in Catton's view of the role of the
The story line of The Luminaries had kept her guessing. It
captured the essence of its time and place, and the
characters were strong. Catton (28) was ''sweet and
approachable'' when Mrs Moffat and friend Gemma Stratton took
their books for signing.
Olivia McPherson, a Dunedin student, had just bought a copy
of Catton's first book, The Rehearsal, which she had
Ms McPherson had been immersed in The Luminaries,
saying she read the second half of the doorstop book in just
She had been fascinated by not knowing just how the plot
would come together.
Ken McKenzie, of Timaru, said he had not yet read The
Luminaries, but his wife ''devoured'' it. Catton's
intelligence and maturity shone in her discussion with Mr
Macdonald, Mr McKenzie said.
Kathryn Palmer, of Dunedin, declared she was one of the
''early readers'' of The Luminaries, before it became
a sensation. She had felt ''bereft'' when she finished to
book, which she praised for its structured layers, and
In the question-and-answer part of the evening, Catton was
asked whether she had had to develop a thick skin since
becoming a celebrated writer.
She said the social media site Twitter could be a ''bummer'',
as readers sometimes targeted her with criticisms of the
book. While people were free to dislike her work, they did
not have the right to be rude just because she was well
She also reflected on her own well-publicised comment about
''men over about 45'', who she felt had been unfairly
critical of her work.
Admitting those comments had been ''slightly ungracious'',
she acknowledged many older men had given valuable feedback
and support that helped her write the novel.
She reflected on a highly critical review of her novel by the
author C.K. Stead. Mr Macdonald quipped that if she had only
been referring to C.K. Stead, she might as well have said
''men over 105''.
Catton believed there needed to be more constructive public
spaces to debate issues.
She acknowledged a few factual errors in the highly detailed
novel, which made the book a source of ''pedant fodder''.
She was ''bored'' by the snobbery around ''literary
fiction'', and viewed The Luminaries as a genre novel.
She pointed out that great classic novels, like those by Jane
Austen, and Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, were genre,
romance and science fiction, respectively.
• Read ODT books editor Helen Speirs'
interview with Eleanor Catton in this weekend's Magazine