Eleanor Catton has claimed the 2013 Man Booker Prize – as well as its £50,000 payout – for her second novel, The Luminaries. Catton had 11/4 odds to win this year’s prize according to popular bookmakers, Ladbrokes, and she has now become the youngest author to ever win the prestigious award. The four judges read 151 novels before deciding on Catton’s work, and chairman Robert Macfarlane estimates that the reading amounted to “about 21 kilometres of prose” at “12-pt Adobe Garamond.”
In a recent review for our site, Martha Anne Toll referred to Catton’s novel as “that rarest literary treasure, a book of such dazzling breadth and scope that it defies any label short of masterpiece.” She continued:
Deeply entrenched in New Zealand’s South Island, The Luminaries makes clear that this author commands the world at her fingertips. Her literary ancestry derives less from her homeland and more from the British and American giants of the nineteenth century. Catton deserves their company. Nodding to Melville, she’s nailed the tormented sea captain and the revenge obsessed “Chinaman.” With so many characters taking on false identities and trying to out-cheat each other in New Zealand’s gold rush, Catton, too, has mined the seamy underside of greed and poverty so beloved by Dickens. Like George Eliot, Catton looks behind the stereotype of the whore and the opium dealer and forces us to question where the real morality lies. By the novel’s end, every character’s initial presentation has been destabilized. Reader, Catton instructs, don’t judge a book by its cover.
Next year will be the first year in which American authors will be eligible to win the Man Booker Prize, which has previously been open only to authors from the British Commonwealth.