15 October 2013
At 28, Eleanor Catton is the youngest writer to win the prize, in its 45th year. She takes that title from Ben Okri, who was 32 when his novel The Famished Road won the Booker Prize in 1991. Kiran Desai was previously the youngest woman to win, at 35, with The Inheritance of Loss in 2006.
Eleanor is only the second New Zealander to win the prize, following Keri Hulme in 1985 with The Bone People. This is also a first win for independent publisher, Granta.
The Luminaries is Eleanor Catton’s second novel. Set in New Zealand in its nineteenth-century gold rush, it is seemingly a classic Victorian novel with its story of murder, conspiracy and fallen women. Beneath the surface it is in fact far more complex; structured according to astrological charts, it asks questions about fate and destiny, character and personality.
Selected from a shortlist described as ‘the best in living memory’ (Daily Telegraph), The Luminaries was described by the judges as ‘simply luminous; a novel of arch craft and tender heart’. The Guardian describes it as ‘a dazzling feat of a novel, the golden nugget in this year’s Man Booker longlist, a pastiche quite unlike anything I’ve ever come across, so graceful in its plotting and structure.’
Robert Macfarlane, Chair of judges, made the announcement live on the BBC News from the awards dinner at London’s Guildhall. Catton was presented with the winner trophy by HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, and with a cheque for £50,000 from Emmanuel Roman, Chief Executive of Man.
Robert Macfarlane comments: ‘The Luminaries is a magnificent novel: awesome in its structural complexity; addictive in its story-telling and magical in its conjuring of a world of greed and gold.’
Winning the Man Booker Prize will bring Eleanor Catton worldwide recognition. Her win follows that of Hilary Mantel (Wolf Hall in 2009 and Bring up the Bodies in 2012), whose double victory in three years secured her the number one spot in the official UK Top 50 chart and book sales of over 1.5 million. In addition to her £50,000 prize, Catton also receives a beautifully bound edition of her book, and a further £2,500 for being shortlisted.
Macfarlane was joined on the 2013 judging panel by: broadcaster Martha Kearney; critic, academic and prize-winning biographer, Robert Douglas-Fairhurst; broadcaster, classicist and critic, Natalie Haynes and essayist and former literary editor of Scotland on Sunday, Stuart Kelly.
Eleanor Catton will take part in her first public event as winner of the prize at Apple’s Regent Street branch on Thursday 17 October.