Eleanor Catton's life in books Live




The first book she remembers reading

James Herriot's The Christmas Day Kitten is a picture book with the most beautiful illustrations. It tells the story of a kitten who is adopted on Christmas Day and turns up as a gift. I remember the illustrations so vividly. They’re like memories. In the story there are these Basset hounds in front of a glowing red fire and the Christmas Day Kitten is brought down and placed among the Basset hounds. My parents probably still have a copy."
 
by CBC Books
The most important book she read growing up 
"Margaret Atwood's Alias Grace was really important to me because it was a book for adults that I read knowing it was for adults. I read it when I was about 13 or 14 and didn't understand it fully. I was kind of afraid of it. There were all sorts of undercurrents and aspects of sexuality that went over my head, but that I could still sense. I think it’s very important for teenagers to read books that are slightly outside of their comprehension."
 
by CBC Books
The book she returns to most often

"I often pick up Michelle Magorian’s Goodnight Mister Tom in the middle and read a couple of chapters, and then put it down again. The copy I have is the very first book I ever bought with my own money, when I was maybe seven or so. I was in a drama competition and I got a $12 book token as a prize. My mom took me down to the book store, and I chose Goodnight Mister Tom. That was always really important. It had this special place on the bookshelf in my room because it I had earned it. I had purchased it. It’s a beautiful story of a young boy who is evacuated out of London during the Blitz and who then forms this relationship with the man he is billeted with. It’s a story of emotional development and enlightenment on the part of so many more characters than just the main character."

 
by CBC Books
The book you may be surprised to know she’s read

"People might be surprised to learn that I enjoy reading young adult fiction. I read a book recently called Feed by M.T. Anderson, an American writer, which is set in the future. In this reality, the Internet has become an implantable chip in people’s brains so people can do all sorts of things. If people want to achieve a state of drunkenness, or highness, they can download corrupted software into their brains and it’ll cause their brains to malfunction for pleasurable effect. Also, people can put up firewalls when they don’t want other people to see what they’re thinking. People can instantly message without speaking and so on. I absolutely adore this book. I’d recommend it to anybodyteenagers especially, but adults too. I think it’s an ingenuous situation and a real comment on corporate takeover and what happens when people have access to our metadata."
 
by CBC Books
The book she gives the most as a gift

"I’ve given Lewis Hyde’s The Gift to a lot of budding artists. It’s a great book to give away, as you can tell by the title. But essentially it’s an anthropological study that turns into a work of literary criticism about the role of having a gift for artor a gift of any kindand how to make sense of your gift in a world that is asking you to make money. How do you reconcile something that really has infinite value, or cannot be said to have a value, in a world that is demanding that you do place a value on it?" 

by CBC Books
The first book that had the biggest impact on The Luminaries

"The Brothers Karamazov really impressed me as a novel of exquisite structure and choreography. The intellectual design of the book exists so harmoniously with the story. It’s a murder mystery in the way The Luminaries is. It sets up its characters in very archetypal ways and defines them almost abstractly, and then builds and builds towards a conclusion. That, for me as a reader, was very unexpected and surprising." 
 
by CBC Books
 The second book that had the biggest impact on The Luminaries

"Moby Dick was a huge influence for just how incredibly daring it is. I was astonished that I was reading a 19th-century novel. It seemed completely avant-garde to me, it really blew my head off when I read it: the energy of the book, and being capable of supporting such radical changes of direction and changes of mood. It taught me a lot about momentum."

by CBC Books
 
 

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