Eleanor Catton’s 848-page second novel THE LUMINARIES won the Booker Prize, awarded in London on Tuesday night. At 28, she is the youngest Booker winner ever. Little, Brown just published the book in the US earlier in the day, though it was issued previously in the UK (Granta) and her home of New Zealand (Victoria University Press). Little, Brown published her debut novel The Rehearsal as well.
In thanking her publishers, Catton noted wryly that it “was a publisher’s nightmare,” since “the shape and form of the book made certain types of editorial suggestions…not only mathematically impossible, but also astrologically impossible.” (A reply to one editorial remark was, “Well, you would think that, being a Virgo.) More broadly, she acknowledged, “I know that it is no small thing that my publishers…never once made these pressures [of the business] known to me while I was writing this book.” Her callouts included one her editors, Philip Gwyn Jones, who left Granta during the turnover turmoil there earlier this year. And for rights-seekers in other territories, Catton also thanked her agent Caroline Dawnay at United Agents.
Catton’s win leaves intact the Booker rule of thumb cited this morning that the bettors’ favorite — this year, Jim Crace’s HARVEST — almost never wins. Another Booker tradition is the judges’ revelations that follow the selection, and this year Robert Douglas-Fairhurst has his thoughts up at the Telegraph already. But it was a drama-free year for the judges: “From the beginning [at Tuesday’s final meeting] it is clear that a consensus is starting to emerge. We discuss each novel in turn, and after two hours we agree upon a winner. It is a tight decision but there is no need for a vote.” On The Luminaries, he writes: “Over more than 800 pages it grips, teases, and ultimately seduces. Other novels on the shortlist would have been worthy winners, but as we leave to prepare for the official announcement we are confident that this is the one that does the most to invigorate and renew its chosen form. This is the one that makes the novel seem novel again.”