Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Man Booker Prize Goes to "The Luminaries"



41Adtc6kT7LShe’s young, she’s talented, and she just won the Booker. 28 year-old Eleanor Catton started writing her doorstop of a novel, The Luminaries, when she was 25 years old. She must have had an idea she was good:  she’d already written one book, The Rehearsal, which received critical praise, and in 2008 she was awarded a fellowship to the Iowa Writer’s Workshop.

But to go on to win the Booker, the UK’s preeminent book award, is quite a feat. She beat out a who’s who of authors to get the award. Jhumpa Lahiri. Colm Toibin. Ruth Ozeki. Even Jim Crace (who, Philip Roth-style, had announced his retirement from writing earlier in the year).

The Luminaries, which was an Amazon Best of the Month selection in Literature & Fiction, is part historical fiction, part mystery, and a whole lot of good writing. The story takes place in New Zealand in 1866. Walter Moody, just-arrived to find his fortune, fairly quickly discovers himself among twelve important men of the community who are trying to solve a recent crime. As Lucy Scholes put it in a Guardian review from last month (and let’s face it, she nailed it), the book is “a tale of adultery, theft, conspiracy, trafficking, blackmail and murder set against the backdrop of the gold rush, opium dens, seances and tarot cards – but The Luminaries is a dazzling feat of a novel, the golden nugget in this year's Man Booker longlist, a pastiche quite unlike anything I've ever come across, so graceful is its plotting and structure.”

As I read this book, I kept going back to Scholes' review in my mind, to its accurate description of the novel and to her almost-prediction that it should win. Would the Man Booker Committee agree with her?

Now we have our answer.

Congratulations to Eleanor Catton. We can't wait to see what you do next.



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