5 differences between The Luminaries on BBC Two and Eleanor Catton’s novel – The Sun

THE Luminaries is the new BBC One mystery drama keeping us on the edge of our seats in lockdown.

The hit show was adapted from a popular book of the same name, but with some major changes.

Was The Luminaries based off of a book?

Yes! The six-part series is based on Eleanor Catton's novel.

The 848-page novel was published in 2013, and is set in New Zealand during the gold rush.

The same year, it won the Man Booker Prize, making Catton (who was 28 at the time) the youngest author to ever win the Booker.

What are some of the key differences between the Luminaries novel and the show?

Fans of the book spotted some big changes in the show.

The show is only six episodes long, and so Catton's 800+ page story would certainly need some condensing.

However, the screenplay was written by Catton herself, and so fans can rest assured that any changes would be as meticulously planned and well-executed as Catton's usual work.

Warning: Spoilers ahead!

The love story between Anna Wetherell and Emery Staines is at the heart of the show

The TV show focusses a great deal more on the love story between Anna Wetherell (Eve Hewson) and Emery Staines (Himesh Patel).

The pair meet on a voyage to Dunedin, New Zealand, and share their love of astrology and the supernatural.

Their relationship in the novel is more of a sub-plot, but in the TV show, it becomes the main focal point.

The 12 men are replaced by Anna's flashbacks

In the novel, the story of the murder of Crosbie Wells (Ewen Leslie) is narrated to us through 12 men (often interpreted as the jury, and star signs). In the adaptation, they do not appear at all until episode five.

In the TV show, Anna seems to recount the event to us herself through flashbacks.

Director Claire McCarthy said: “It is a re-telling and a different version of The Luminaries. It’s almost like we’ve reframed the story from a different point of view by vesting it in Anna’s character.”

But, she added: “There is so much richness in the book to draw from, and so many intricate details. The audience who are already fans of the novel will see that it’s Eleanor’s book but retold. The complexities and the richness of the book are intact.”

Walter Moody isn't a main character

The Scottish lawyer Walter Moody (Michael Sheasby) doesn't even appear in the show until episode five.

In the novel, he is there right from the start in the smoking-room of the Crown Hotel in Hokitika.

Moody serves as a detective, piecing together the complex story (with the help of the 12 men).

Lydia Wells is the antagonist

While the novel version of Lydia Wells can be deceitful at times, the TV show Lydia (Eva Green) is manipulative and orchestrates Anna's tricky situation to her advantage.

The tension between Anna and Lydia is more prevalent in the show.

Although, fans have reported that they like this change. Other than Anna and Lydia, the remaining cast are all men. By amplifying the female characters, and making them more complex and dynamic, Catton has redefined the story to be about female empowerment at a time dominated by men.

Many characters are either cut totally or given less focal time

We already discussed how Walter Moody is given less screen time, but fans noticed many characters did not make an appearance in the show.

Characters such as Giles, Albert, and Bill appear totally cut from the story, although they were minor to begin with.

This is an example of the impossible job Catton had of condensing and simplifying her vast and complex novel into six episodes.

When can I watch The Luminaries?

The Luminaries began on June 21, 2020.

The show airs every Sunday at 9pm on BBC One.

The full series of The Luminaries is also available on BBC iPlayer.

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