I know nothing about astrology, gold mining, or New Zealand so I was skeptical, but it was so easy to become absorbed in this story. It was wonderfully exciting and perfectly written; just really lovely story-telling. However, as the pieces start to fall into place, the story loses steam. This book is hella long so I fully anticipated some dry spots. It didn't come apart entirely, but it started to drag - tiny bits of information keep trickling out until the bitter end but they aren't very revelatory or shocking, so it just sort of fizzled out.
The second half had a little too much focus on the trite and insipid lovers -- why have anything beyond the merest of references to the boring love story when there is murder, missing gold, opium, stolen identities, shipwrecks, and revenge to be had? I kept telling myself this couldn't be true because this won the Booker, for heaven's sake, but Anna was like a female character from a badly written YA or chick-lit novel -- she's beautifully damaged by her past and every male appears to be wildly in love with her which is in itself a mystery because she is as boring as a stack of plain toast.
I could have passed on the last 200 pages or so (even if this would have disturbed the crazy ambitious structure which, frankly, I was not even aware of at first) but four stars because it was a perfect example of how absorbing it can be to read a really good story.