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NZ author wins Man Booker


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New Zealand author Eleanor Catton has won this year’s Man Booker Prize, the youngest author ever to take out the coveted literary award.

The 28-year-old’s novel The Luminaries claimed the prestigious literary prize when the winner was announced at a ceremony in London on Wednesday morning.

Catton’s 823-page novel has been described as a “Kiwi Twin Peaks” – a gold rush murder-mystery set in the South Island town of Hokitika in 1866.

She is the youngest author to take out the prize, which is in its 45th year. Ben Okri was 32 when he won in 1991.

Man-Booker-coverThe Luminaries is her second novel and it was described by the judges as “simply luminous; a novel of arch craft and tender heart”.

Chair of the judges Robert Macfarlane said: “The Luminaries is a magnificent novel: awesome in its structural complexity, addictive in its story-telling and magical in its conjuring of a world of greed and gold.”

Catton was presented with the winner’s trophy by The Duchess of Cornwall and a cheque for STG50,000 ($A84,700).

The Victoria University graduate’s debut novel The Rehearsal was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and the Dylan Thomas Prize, and longlisted for the Orange Prize.

Catton’s New Zealand publisher, Fergus Barrowman of Victoria University Press, in London for the award, was thrilled for Catton.

“We are delighted for Ellie and for the further international recognition the Man Booker Prize will bring The Luminaries,” he said.

“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.”

The book is now into its fifth print run in New Zealand.

British bookmakers had made Jim Crace and his novel Harvest favourites to win the prize.

The only other Kiwi to have claimed the prize, Keri Hulme, beat the 50/1 odds to win with her novel The Bone People in 1985.

Catton was born in Canada, but her family returned to Christchurch when she was six.

The other shortlisted authors were Colm Toibin (The Testament of Mary), Jhumpa Lahiri (The Lowland), NoViolet Bulawayo (We Need New Names) and Ruth Ozeki (A Tale for the Time Being).

The Man Booker Prize is open to writers from Britain, Ireland and the Commonwealth.

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