New Zealand’s Eleanor Catton wins Man Booker Prize

LONDON (TIP): Eleanor Catton has become the youngest writer to ever win a Man Booker prize. The 28-year-old New Zealander’s book The Luminaries – an 832-page murder mystery based on the gold rush in the 19th-century is also the longest novel to ever win the coveted literary prize. Catton who started writing the book when she was 25- years-old was given the £50,000 by the Duchess of Cornwall at London’s Guildhall on Tuesday evening. The judges picked Catton’s audacious take on an old form, the Victorian “sensation novel”. The youngest ever winner before Catton was Ben Okri who was 32 when his work The Famished Road won the Booker prize in 1991. The Luminaries is Catton’s second novel after The Rehearsal, which was shortlisted for the 2009 Guardian first book award. Catton is just the second New Zealander to win the prize, the first being Keri Hulme with The Bone People in 1985. The Luminaries, set in 1866 during the New Zealand gold rush, contains a group of 12 men gathered for a meeting in a hotel and a traveller who stumbles into their midst; the story involves a missing rich man, a dead hermit, a huge sum in gold, and a beaten-up whore. There are sex and seances, opium and lawsuits in the mystery too. The multiple voices take turns to tell their own stories and gradually what happened in the small town of Hokitika on New Zealand’s South Island is revealed. The novel had been up against Indian-American writer Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland – a story of a young man’s tryst with the Naxalite movement at the cost of his family. Set in Kolkata, the Lowland was among six books shortlisted for the prize. One of the favourites to win was the shortest work ever to be shortlisted – Colm Toibin’s 30,000 word The Last Testament of Mary.

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