New Zealand writer Eleanor Catton, winner of the Man Booker
Prize 2013, at the Guildhall in central London.
New Zealand author Eleanor Catton has won the Man Booker
prize for her novel The Luminaries.
The prize was announced this morning at a gala dinner in
Catton, 22, receives a £50,000 prize for the award.
She is the second New Zealander to win the Booker. Keri
Hulme won in 1985 for The Bone People.
Lloyd Jenkins was shortlisted for Mr Pip in 2007.
In accepting the award, Catton said her book was "a
She said she was very aware of the pressures on contemporary
publishing to make money.
"It is no small thing that my primary publishers ... never
once made those pressures known to me while I was writing
this book,'' she said.
"I was free throughout to concern myself not of questions of
value, but of worth.''
She was presented with the award, one of the world's highest
literary prizes, by the Duchess of Cornwall.
Catton thanked her partner, poet Seve Toussaint and said his
"kindness, patience and love'' was written on every page of
At 28, she is the youngest person to win the booker.
The Luminaries is her second novel, and follows The
Rehearsal, which was published in 2008.
In winning the Booker, the Auckland writer has become the
youngest to take the prize.
That may have its downside. Catton has spoken of how making
the Booker shortlist has cut her life in two: the "Eleanor''
public life, and the "Ellie'' private life.
"I can feel the public side of my life and the private side
of my life sort of drifting away from one another.''
The Luminaries, an epic historical novel, is set in 1866
With its structure and narrative propelled by 12 men aligned
to 12 signs of the zodiac, the 832-page murder-mystery has
divided reviewers, electrifying many, baffling others.
The Man Booker judges described it as "a New Zealand Twin
As one observer has commented: "Her understanding of male
characters, and prostitutes and smoking opium is amazing.
It's as if she has lived a much more colourful, wild life
than the young woman you read about or listen to on the
Not everyone has praised The Luminaries.
Critic Robert McCrum wrote in the Observer: "This sprawling
mystery, a Victorian pastiche set in Victorian New Zealand,
is replete with red herrings, astrological symbolism, and
"A doorstop of a novel, by a New Zealander who appears to
have swallowed a dictionary, it is by Trollope out of Wilkie
Collins, possibly suckled by John Fowles.
"At more than 800 pages, it left this reader wishing that
Catton had also paid homage to Robert Louis Stevenson whose
best line, surely, is 'the only art is to omit'. On page 342,
Catton supplies a story-so-far from the point of view of the
protagonist Walter Moody. If you are unemployed, or marooned
on a desert island, this timely round-up might give you the
courage to investigate the next 500 pages.''
Jim Crace was seen as the narrow favourite to take the Booker
with Harvest, with Catton put at second-equal with Colm
Toibin's The Testament of Mary.
In her speech, Catton said she was influenced by the book The
Gift by Lewis Hyde, which helped her understanding of the
West Coast during the gold rush years.
"The region is rich in two very different minerals, gold,
prized by Europeans for its value, and Greenstone or Pounamu,
prized by Maori for its worth.
"Gold being pure currency, can only be bought and sold.
Pounamu as a symbol of belonging and prestige, can only be
"An economy based on value, in Lewis Hydes conception, is not
necessarily inferior to an economy based on worth, but the
two must somehow be reconciled in the life of an artist who
wishes to make a living by his or her gift, by his or her
Catton said that intersection of economies on the West Coast
had a national significance for New Zealand "speaking as it
does to New Zealand's essentially bicultural heart''.
"I am very aware of the pressures on contemporary publishing
to make money and to remain competitive in a competitive
world, and I know that it is no small thing that my primary
publishers, Granta, here in London, and Victoria University
Press in New Zealand, never once made these pressures known
to me while I was writing this book.
"I was free throughout to concern myself of questions not of
value, but of worth.
"This is all the more incredible to me because The Luminaries
is and was from the very beginning, a publisher's nightmare.
The shape and form of the book made certain kinds of
editorial suggestions not only mathematically impossible, but
even more egregious, astrologically impossible.
"A very sensible email from one of my two editors ... might
have even earned the very annoying and not at all sensible
reply, 'well you would think that, being a Virgo'.
"I am very fortunate to have found a home at these publishing
Catton's New Zealand publisher, Fergus Barrowman of Victoria
University Press, who attended the prize ceremony at
Guildhall in London, said he was thrilled.
"We are delighted for Ellie and for the further international
recognition the Man Booker Prize will bring The Luminaries,''
"It's a big ambitious book written by a fearlessly
intelligent and talented writer. It's a novel for readers who
love great storytelling and it's wonderful that the judges
have chosen to recognise that with this illustrious prize.''
Victoria University Press said the book had been selling
extremely well since and was now onto its fifth print run.
Friends and fans have rushed to congratulate Catton on her
win, posting on her facebook page and Twitter.
On Twitter, #ManBookerPrize, Eleanor Catton and The
Luminaries were the top three trending topics in New Zealand
Writer Elizabeth Knox tweeted: "Just spoke to @FergusVUP on
phone. There was trembling. Then cheers and tears.''
Novelist Rachel King, who had earlier tweeted that she was
doing the school run in her best dress to mark the award
ceremony, tweeted: "I think I'm crying. She looks so
overwhelmed I want to hug her. Well done @EleanorCatton!``
Labour MP Jacinda Ardern said: "Huge congratulations to
Eleanor Catton! Winner of Man Booker prize 28 yrs after Hulme
won (the same year Eleanor was born) What an achievement''.
Findlay McDonald called Catton "The Lorde of literature!"
Nik Jarvie-Waldrom posted on Catton's facebook page: "Will
toast to your success when I get home. For now, I shed tears
at my work desk and prepare to monitor media reports about
your incredible talent.''
Anne Kennedy wrote: "Congratulations, Ellie! Deafening roar
out at MIT when you won. Then awestruck silence for your
great speech. I knew you'd win!"
Jane Groufsky wrote that she had simultaneously burst into
tears, jumped around her office, almost hyperventilated and
ran to tell her co-workers, "who I don't know very well and
it was somewhat awkward but I was just so damn excited.''
Catton wrote chapters of her award-winning book while Writer
in Residence at the University of Canterbury (UC) in 2011.
The university's acting head of English, Christina
Stachurski, said Catton received her Bachelor of Arts degree
there after three years of study in 2005.
"We recognised Ellie as a writer of some exceptional talent
and she was appointed Writer in Residence in 2011 when she
wrote chapters of The Luminaries while based here on campus.
"Keri Hulme, was also UC's Writer in Residence here on campus
when she won her prize for The Bone People, so that's a
remarkable achievement for our Department and for UC.
"But today we are just so proud of Ellie. She worked in an
office down the hallway here. She is a lovely person,
unpretentious and fun to have around. Her father, Dr Phillip
Catton, was a senior lecturer in philosophy here too,''
Catton's success should inspire aspiring writers of all ages
to start writing the next great New Zealand novel, said
National Librarian Bill Macnaught.
"I congratulate Eleanor Catton on becoming the youngest-ever
Booker winner,'' said Mr Macnaught.
"And I note with pride that she credits her research on the
Library's Papers Past website with providing insight into the
historical period and places the novel is set in.
"The ethos of the National Library - whether its through our
Services to Schools programmes or the hugely popular Papers
Past site - is to give New Zealanders access to the knowledge
we collect and turn it into value. And didn't she just.
"The National Library hopes Eleanor's terrific achievement
will encourage other New Zealanders to find inspiration in
the resources we provide.''