Man Booker Prize 2013: New Zealand's Eleanor Catton named youngest ever winner

'Astonishing' novel The Luminaries sees the 28-year-old take home Britain's most prestigious literary award

Eleanor Catton has become the youngest winner of the Man Booker Prize with her “astonishing” novel The Luminaries, chalking up a second landmark as the longest book to scoop the award.

The New Zealander, who was 25 when she started the work before finishing it two years later, received the award, and a £50,000 cheque, from the Duchess of Cornwall at the Guildhall.

Ms Catton said she was hit by “a white wall” when her name was read out, and as she walked to the podium was struck by “a dry mouth and trembling knees”.

The victorious author said it was “a good thing” that the judges looked beyond her age: “I feel honoured and proud to be living in a world where someone’s biography doesn’t get in the way of how their work is viewed.”

The epic tale of love, murder, conspiracy and deceit set in the “lesser known gold rush” in the New Zealand in the 1860s triumphed over established authors including Colm Toibin and Jim Crace.

Robert Macfarlane, chair of the judges, said: “It is a dazzling work, a luminous work. It is vast without being sprawling.” It can, he said, be approached as a murder mystery with séances, corpses, lawsuits and puzzles. “The pleasures it yields in those simple ways are immense as well.”

The book has a lot astrology and star signs, but Ms Catton said she had not checked her horoscope yesterday morning about whether she would win.

At 832 pages it overtakes Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, the previous longest with 672. Mr Macfarlane joked that the judges without e-readers “enjoyed a full upper body work out”. Ms Catton revealed “embarrassingly” she has had to buy a new handbag as the book would not fit in her old one.

Despite its size, which might prove daunting to some readers, The Luminaries is likely to experience the traditional “Booker bounce” with sales soaring after the announcement.

“Once you begin it, there is a static opening,” Mr Macfarlane said. “It begins in fixity and then it accelerates out of it. Once you're on the downslope the pace is irresistible.”

It was up against Toibin's The Testament of Mary, which at 104 pages would have been the shortest novel ever to win the prize.

Mr Macfarlane called it “beautifully intricate, without being fussy. It is experimental but does not by any means neglect the traditional virtues of storytelling. Its story is quite exceptionally compelling.”

Riffing on the subject matter, Mr Macfarlane said the judges had “dug into” the work three times “and the yield it has offered at each new reading is extraordinary. It is a novel about value, which requires a huge investment from its readers… but from which the dividends are astronomical.”

At 28, Catton takes the prize for youngest author from Ben Okri, who was 32 when his novel The Famished Road won the Booker in 1991. She is also the second New Zealander to win after Keri Hulme picked up the prize for The Bone People in 1985.

Mr Macfarlane described it as “awesome” that someone in their 20s had won the prize. “One tries ones best to read it independently of that knowledge. The maturity of the work, you read every sentence and you are astonished by its knowledge and its poise.”

The judges described the book as “simply luminous; a novel of arch craft and tender heart”. They came to the decision after “two hours of tough discussion”.

This is her second work. Her debut novel The Rehearsal won the Betty Trask Prize, an Amazon first novel award in Canada and was longlisted for the Orange Prize in 2010.

Catton was born in 1985 in Canada and raised in Christchurch, New Zealand. She held an adjunct professorship at the Iowa Writers' Workshop and an MA in fiction writing from the International Institute of Modern Letters.

This is the last Booker award open only to writers from the Commonwealth, Zimbabwe and the Republic of Ireland. From next year the prize will admit anyone writing in English, with huge competition expected from American novelists.

Arts and Entertainment
Don’t send in the clowns: masks and make-up conceal true facial expressions, thwarting our instinct to read people’s minds through their faces, as seen in ‘It’
film
Arts and Entertainment
Go figure: Matt Parker, wearing the binary code scarf knitted by his mother
comedy Mathematician is using comedy nights to teach and preach sums
Arts and Entertainment
Ryan Gosling in 'Drive'
filmReview: Ryan Gosling is still there, but it's a very different film
Arts and Entertainment
Urban explorer: Rose Rouse has documented her walks around Harlesden, and the people that she’s encountered along the way
books Rouse's new book discusses her four-year tour of Harlesden
Arts and Entertainment
Shock of the news: Jake Gyllenhaal in ‘Nightcrawler’
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
film
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Franco Zeffirelli's production of 'Aida' at Milan's famed La Scala opera house
operaLegendary opera director in battle with theatre over sale of one of his 'greatest' productions
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Juergen Wolf won the Young Masters Art Prize 2014 with his mixed media painting on wood, 'Untitled'
art
Arts and Entertainment
Iron Man and Captain America in a scene from
filmThe upcoming 'Black Panther' film will feature a solo black male lead, while a female superhero will take centre stage in 'Captain Marvel'
Arts and Entertainment
The Imperial War Museum, pictured, has campaigned to display copyrighted works during the First World War centenary
art
Arts and Entertainment
American Horror Story veteran Sarah Paulson plays conjoined twins Dot and Bette Tattler
tvReview: Yes, it’s depraved for the most part but strangely enough it has heart to it
Arts and Entertainment
The mind behind Game of Thrones George R. R. Martin
books

Will explain back story to fictional kingdom Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Dorothy in Return to Oz

film Unintentionally terrifying children's movies to get you howling (in fear, tears or laughter)
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Robert James-Collier as under-butler Thomas

TVLady Edith and Thomas show sad signs of the time
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Dad's Army cast hit the big screen

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling is releasing a new Harry Potter story about Dolores Umbridge

books
Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning?
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift performs at the 2014 iHeart Radio Music Festival
music review
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Arts and Entertainment
Miranda Hart has called time on her award-winning BBC sitcom, Miranda
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

    The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

    Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
    The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

    Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

    Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
    Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

    What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

    Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
    A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

    Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

    Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
    Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

    'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

    A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

    Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

    The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
    Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

    Paul Scholes column

    Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
    Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

    Frank Warren column

    Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
    Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

    Adrian Heath's American dream...

    Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
    Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

    Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

    Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
    Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

    A Syrian general speaks

    A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
    How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

    Turn your mobile phone into easy money

    There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes