Man Booker Prize 2013: New Zealand's Eleanor Catton named youngest ever winner - News - Books - The Independent

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
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Some might argue that a fleeting moment in the actor’s scintillating, silver-tongued company is worth every penny.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth stars as master magician Stanley Crawford in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

film
Arts and Entertainment
U2 have released Songs of Innocence in partnership with Apple

musicBand have offered new record for free on iTunes
Arts and Entertainment
Brad Pitt stars in David Ayer's World War II drama Fury

film
Arts and Entertainment
Top hat: Pharrell Williams

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star as undercover cops in 22 Jump Street

film
Arts and Entertainment
David Bowie is back with fresh music after last year's hit album The Next Day

music
Arts and Entertainment
Keith Richards is publishing 'Gus and Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar', a children's book about his introduction to music

music
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris has generated £4m in royalties from the music platform

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman stars as the Time Lord's companion Clara in Doctor Who

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Time and time again: the popular daytime quiz has been a fixture on Channel 4 since 1982

TV
Arts and Entertainment

To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthday

books
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams is reportedly competing with Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss for a major role in True Detective

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sam Smith returned to the top spot with his album 'In The Lonely Hour'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Backshall is set to dance with Ola Jordan on Strictly Come Dancing. 'I have a friend who's a dancer and she said to me 'You want Ola because she's a fantastic dancer and she can make anyone look good' meaning 'even you'!' he said.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sting and Paul Simon on stage together at Carnegie Hall in New York

music
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.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week