New Zealand author Eleanor Catton has, at the age of 28, become the youngest ever winner of the £50,000 Man Booker Prize for her novel The Luminaries. Her 832-page tale of the 19th-century goldfields is also the longest work to win in the prize’s 45-year history. “It’s a dazzling work. It’s a luminous work. It is vast without being sprawling,” said Robert Macfarlane, chair of the judges.
Catton was announced as the winner on Tuesday night at London’s Guildhall. The book, a Victorian mystery tale set during the New Zealand gold rush, is intricately structured according to astrological charts – with each section exactly half the length of its predecessor. “You begin it and you think you are in the clutches of a big baggy monster,” said Macfarlane, adding that what followed was an “accelerating, quickening tilt to the narrative”.
“We have returned to it three times now and we have dug into it – to use its own metaphors – and the yield it has offered at each new reading has been extraordinary,” he said. The prize, announced live on the BBC News Channel, was presented this year by the Duchess of Cornwall. The other authors on the shortlist were NoViolet Bulawayo, for We Need New Names; Jim Crace, for Harvest; Jhumpa Lahiri, for The Lowland; Ruth Ozeki, for A Tale for the Time Being; and Colm Toibin, for The Testament of Mary. Via Man Booker Prize: Eleanor Catton becomes youngest winner with The Luminaries.