Wellington Scoop

VUW graduate’s 848-page second novel wins Man Booker Prize in London

Eleanor Catton (centre) with her editors Sara Holloway and Max Porter, at the London ceremony before her Man Booker prize was announced. In her acceptance speech, she said their influence had been “conspiratorial, rigorous, and … personally sustaining.”
Photo via Twitter from VUP’s Fergus Barrowman

News from VUW
Victoria University congratulates graduate Eleanor Catton whose novel The Luminaries has won the prestigious Man Booker Prize 2013 announced in London this morning.

At 28, Ms Catton is the youngest person ever to have been awarded the prize. The Luminaries, her second novel, was up against works by well-established writers such as Colm Toibin, Jim Crace and Jhumpa Lahiri.

In 2007 Ms Catton completed the Master of Arts in Creative Writing from Victoria University’s International Institute of Modern letters at Victoria University of Wellington. The Luminaries and Ms Catton’s first novel The Rehearsal are both published by Victoria University Press.

Victoria University Vice-Chancellor Professor Pat Walsh says the University is immensely proud of Ms Catton’s achievement.

“It is an outstanding achievement for Eleanor, for Victoria University and for New Zealand literature. It is also a testament to the calibre of the creative writing and publishing capability at Victoria.”

Ms Catton’s New Zealand publisher, Fergus Barrowman of Wellington’s Victoria University Press, who attended the prize ceremony at Guildhall in London, says he is thrilled at Ms Catton’s triumph.

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

Victoria University Press say the book has been selling extremely well since and is now onto its fifth print run.


The Luminaries is a West Coast gold-rush murder story, set in Hokitika in the 1860s. It is wide in scope with a large cast of characters and a richly patterned structure which stretches over 848 pages.

The Luminaries was published in August 2013 and quickly achieved tremendous international critical success which has been topped off by the 2013 Man Booker Prize win.

Media release from NZ Government
Prime Minister John Key has congratulated Eleanor Catton on winning the Man Booker Prize for her novel The Luminaries.

“This is a hugely significant achievement on the world stage for a New Zealander,” Mr Key says. “It is made even more extraordinary by the fact that Eleanor Catton, at 28 years of age, is the youngest ever author to receive the prize, and The Luminaries is only her second novel.

“This will be a tremendous boost for young New Zealanders in the arts and is a testament to the obvious talent and hard work of Eleanor Catton,” Mr Key says.

Ms Catton is the first New Zealander to win the Man Booker Prize since Keri Hulme in 1985 for The Bone People.

Media release from NZ Labour Party
Labour has today congratulated young Kiwi author, Eleanor Catton, on winning literature’s prestigious Man Booker prize. “Eleanor must be feeling absolutely elated, and justifiably so,” Arts, Culture and Heritage spokesperson Jacinda Ardern says.

The judges praised the maturity of The Luminaries, saying “you read every sentence and you are astonished by its knowledge and its poise.”

“It’s an amazing achievement made even more so by the fact that she is the youngest author ever to be awarded the Man Booker. She now joins a list of the world’s greatest writers that includes names such as Iris Murdoch, Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood and Kingsley Amis.

“Coincidentally Eleanor’s win comes 28 years after New Zealand’s Keri Hulme won the same prize for The Bone People in 1985, the year Eleanor was born. The wider impact of Eleanor’s win for New Zealand is immeasurable, as it will be for her. Anyone who reaches such heights becomes an ambassador for all Kiwis – reluctantly or otherwise.

“Today all Kiwis will be feeling proud of Eleanor and the legacy she has created. For someone so young, it is an incredible achievement.”

August: Launched at Unity Books