New Zealand author Eleanor Catton wins Booker prize

‘The Luminaries’ trumps Irish writer Colm Tóibín’s ‘The Testament of Mary’, his third nomination

Canadian-born New Zealander, Eleanor Catton has won the Man Booker Prize for 2013 with her second novel, The Luminaries.

The entertaining human comedy is presented as a Victorian thriller set in Hokitika, New Zealand in 1866, at the height of the gold rush.

Aat 832 pages, The Luminaries is the longest novel to yet win the prize, and also only the second New Zealand novel, the first being Keri Hulme’s The Bone People in 1985.

Irish author Colm Tóibín was one of six writers vying for the prize, which was announced tonight.


His 112-page novella The Testament of Mary concerns the grief and anger of Mary, mother of Jesus, as she tries to liberate her son’s story from the myth that encrusts it.

It was the third time Tóibín has been shortlisted for the prestigious prize, having made the final six in 1999 with The Blackwater Lightship, and again in 2004 with The Master.

Tóibín faced tough competition also from Jim Crace's Harvest, which the 67-year-old British author has described as his last novel.

The book is set in an unnamed English village, in the indeterminate past, where the semi-pagan bucolic life of the inhabitants is about to be uprooted by the forced enclosure of land.

Seen as an allegory for globalisation and the widening gap between the rich and the dispossessed, Crace’s 11th novel is favourite to scoop the £50,000 (€59,000) prize.

Other short-listed authors included NoViolet Bulawayo (We Need New Names), Jhumpa Lahiri (The Lowland) and Ruth Ozeki (A Tale for the Time Being).

British author Julian Barnes yesterday warned that changes in UK publishing industry's best known prize, which will see the inclusion of US writers from next year, will mean it will be less likely to showcase up and coming talent.

Barnes, who won the prize himself in 2011 for The Sense Of An Ending - said he considered the changes to be a “bad idea” and said they appeared to be the result of trying to cash in on a new international market.

In an interview for BBC Radio 3’s Essential Classics, he said of the inclusion of US writers: “I was surprised because I had never heard anyone in the publishing world talk in favour of such a move.

“I don’t know quite where it came from - maybe from the top. Maybe it’s just an example of capitalist expansionism. Once you’ve got one market sown up, you want to go after another.

“I think it’s generally a bad idea. I think that prizes thrive on having some restriction to them.”

The winning novel for this year’s prize was announced at a gala ceremony in London.

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy is Economics Correspondent of The Irish Times