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
Jude Law in Black Sea

film

In Black Seahe is as audiences have never seen him before

Arts and Entertainment
Johnny Depp no longer cares if people criticise his movie flops

film

Arts and Entertainment
Full circle: Wu-Tang’s Method Man Getty

Music review

Arts and Entertainment
When he was king: Muhammad Ali training in 'I Am Ali'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Scare tactics: Michael Palin and Jodie Comer in ‘Remember Me’

TVReview: Remember Me, BBC1
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Will there ever be a Friends reunion?
TV
News
Harry Hill plays the Professor in the show and hopes it will help boost interest in science among young people
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
A Van Gogh sold at Sotheby’s earlier this month
art
Arts and Entertainment

MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word

Arts and Entertainment
It would 'mean a great deal' to Angelina Jolie if she won the best director Oscar for Unbroken

Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says

Arts and Entertainment
Winnie the Pooh has been branded 'inappropriate' in Poland
books
Arts and Entertainment
Lee Evans is quitting comedy to spend more time with his wife and daughter

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

music
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

music
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.

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

    Christmas Appeal

    Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
    Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

    Is it always right to try to prolong life?

    Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

    What does it take for women to get to the top?

    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
    Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

    Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

    Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
    French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

    French chefs campaign against bullying

    A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

    Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
    Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

    Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

    Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
    Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

    Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

    Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
    Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

    Paul Scholes column

    I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
    Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game