No cookie cutter, dumbed down, mass marketed, by-the-numbers novels here. The new Man Booker prize winner has written a real book, tipping the scales at 832 pages of a historical tale.
Yes, they are still writing - and publishing - books of thought and substance. The prize itself will boost sales, and the sales will boost more sales. Not only does this bring hope to every author (some of whom also have historical novels at the ready), but readers can sigh relief from the fact that not all books these days are ground out full of pap and no circumstance.
Congratulations, Eleanor Catton - and thank you. [DE]
Eleanor Catton, author of The Luminaries Photo: Heathcliff O'Malley
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Eleanor Catton interview: Money doesn’t transform you – only love can
Eleanor Catton, the youngest ever winner of the Man Booker prize, talks about how her novel The Luminaries was plotted in the stars
by Sameer Rahim
At the start of Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries, a man “not quite eight and twenty” arrives on foreign shores bearing a valuable story. On Tuesday night, Catton, a New Zealander who has just turned 28, was awarded the £50,000 Man Booker Prize for her second novel – a rollicking, 832-page historical yarn. Perhaps this might not seem a significant coincidence, but when I mention it to Catton, she lights up. She loves making unusual connections and seeing unexpected patterns.
I’m speaking with her on the morning after her victory and, though I can detect traces of the previous night’s celebrations – make-up still sparkles on her cheeks – she is bright-eyed and energetic. “I got in from the after-party around 4.30 this morning,” she says, “and was up for an interview at 7.30.” I ask her what it feels like to be the youngest ever Booker winner. “It feels awesome. One of the strange things about the last few months is that I’ve been living in a state of anxiety. At the party that Granta hosted, there was champagne and everything was so joyful, but I still felt these flashes of nervousness: what’s going to happen about the Booker?” She laughs. “And then I’d have to steel myself and think: I don’t need to worry about this any more.”
Catton’s first novel, The Rehearsal, was a postmodern account of a school sex sandal. Though fiendishly clever, it was also a tough read. The Luminaries is a completely different beast. It is a pastiche of a 19th-century sensation novel in the manner of Wilkie Collins, and a hugely entertaining page-turner that keeps you going to the very end. Catton tells me: “I really wanted to write an adventure story, a murder-mystery that was set during the gold-rush years in New Zealand.