It’s not necessarily easy stringing a coherent sentence together at the age of 27, let alone writing more than 800 pages of literature that’s got the potential of impressing writing competition judges, but that’s exactly what Eleanor Catton has done in her second novel, The Luminaries. Yesterday (15th October 2013) she was announced as the Man Booker Prize 2013 winner and in all fairness it’s all the more impressive considering the sheer size of the book, which means there’s a hell of a lot more to get perfect.
Catton was awarded the prize out of the 6 nominees that made the 2013 shortlist, including Jim Crace’s Harvest, We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo, A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín and The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri. Crace had been the bookies’ favourite with his second nomination into the shortlist, but Catton came out as the winner with her New Zealand tome.
The chair of the judges Robert McFarlane described the winning novel with words like “vast”, “dazzling” and “luminous”, which draws comparisons to Hilary Mantel’s Booker Prize winning opener. However, with a couple hundred extra pages than Wolf Hall, Catton has clearly managed to inject a similar sense of purpose to the storyline, as well as driving in pace thanks to the literary tool she’s employed by halving the length of each subsequent chapter to ramp the story up to a fever pitch climax.
The story is set during the mid 19th century gold rush that took hold in the New Zealand highlands. As Walter Moody heads up into the goldfields to make his fortune he’s immediately thrown into a mystery of all consuming proportions. When he happens upon a discussion between 12 locals he discovers that a series on unsolved crimes have plagued the gold rush site. With the disappearance of a rich man, a suicidal lady of the night and the appearance of a random fortune to deal with, the hunt for gold becomes a part of a bigger puzzle for Walter.
It’s been written with a strong flow of language that’s as much a product of the time as it is the place, creating a rich dialogue for the characters that harks back to the old other-side-of-the-world.
Currently available in hardback, released on the 1st August 2013, The Luminaries has a paperback release date of the 14th April 2014. Either way you look at it it’s going to be a pretty big book to carry around, so it’ll be a good one to try to crash through during Christmas to give you enough time to finish it in the comfort of your own home, where you won’t need a trolly to carry it around with you. It isn’t available as an ebook as of yet, but with the recent award of the 2013 Booker Prize win it shouldn’t be too long before it’s released.
The book has been published by Granta books, and in a stroke of genius they’ve released the opening chapter of the book to read as a taster of the full novel. Visit http://issuu.com/granta_publications/docs/luminaries_chapter_1?e=4052444/4778739 to read the 1st chapter of The Luminaries.
If you missed the build up to announced 2013 Booker Prize winner, you can track it all back to the longlist at http://tuppencemagazine.co.uk/the-man-booker-prize-2013-longlist/.