Tonight saw the announcement of the 2013 winner of the Man Booker Prize for Fiction. History was made when 28 year old Eleanor Catton was pronounced the winner for The Luminaries. In the 45th year of the prize Eleanor is the youngest ever winner with the longest winning book, stealing the crown from Ben Okri, who was 32 when he won for The Famished Road in 1992.
The Luminaries is Eleanor Catton’s second novel. Set in New Zealand in its nineteenth-century gold rush, it is seemingly a classic Victorian novel with its story of murder, conspiracy and fallen women. Beneath the surface it is in fact far more complex; structured according to astrological charts, it asks questions about fate and destiny, character and personality. Chair of judges Robert Macfarlane commented: ‘The Luminaries is a magnificent novel: awesome in its structural complexity; addictive in its story-telling and magical in its conjuring of a world of greed and gold.’
Four Colman Getty has looked after the prize for over twenty years. Whilst the prize has always courted controversy, in particular this year with the announcement of rule changes from 2014, the 2013 shortlist was widely acclaimed as the strongest to date. Gaby Wood wrote in the Daily Telegraph: ‘The 2013 Man Booker Prize shortlist is the best in living memory’ and Patricia Nicol declared in the Metro: ‘This year’s shortlist appears to have got its mojo back, with an exciting mix of youth, gender and appearances.’
For the first time this year there was a royal guest at the dinner. The Booker Prize Foundation first approached Clarence House with an invitation for HRH The Duchess of Cornwall four years ago. With Her Royal Highnesses connections to literature and literacy they were delighted she was able to attend. An avid reader, Her Royal Highness is a Patron of the National Literacy Trust, Book Trust, The Wicked Young Writers Award and First Story, all of which help to promote literacy in young people. Her Royal Highness presented Eleanor Catton with the trophy following the announcement by Chair of judges, Robert Macfarlane.