Eleanor Catton, a London, Ont.-born New Zealand author, has won the 2013 Booker Prize for fiction for her 832-page, gold-rush saga, The Luminaries.
Catton received her prize Wednesday from Prince Charles' wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, at a dinner ceremony at London's medieval Guildhall.
At 28 years old, Catton is the youngest writer to win the prize.
Raised in Christchurch, N.Z. and now based in Auckland, Catton was recognized for her second novel.
A vast, complex, astrologically-themed tome set in the 1860s during the New Zealand gold rush, The Luminaries explores a mysterious web of events — including a murder, the attempted suicide of a prostitute and the disappearance of a man who had recently struck a fortune in gold — that a council of 12 men have gathered to solve.
Catton used her acceptance speech to give to thanks to her editors, her agent and her publishers — Granta in London and Victoria University Press in New Zealand — for giving her freedom.
"I was free, throughout, to concern myself with questions not of value but of worth. This is all the more incredible to me, because The Luminaries is and was, from the very beginning, a publisher's nightmare," she said.
"The shape and form of the book made certain kinds of editorial suggestions not only mathematically impossible but even more egregious, astrologically impossible."
Founded in 1969, the £50,000 ($83,000 Cdn) literary award is officially known as the Man Booker Prize after its sponsor, financial services firm Man Group PLC. Considered one of the world's top literary honours for a single written work, the prize celebrates the fiction genre specifically and has until now been open only to writers from Britain, Ireland and the Commonwealth countries.
However, organizers recently announced plans to widen the field and extend the eligibility to all English-language novels published in the U.K., regardless of the author's nationality, beginning with the 2014 edition.
This year's other nominees were:
- American-born Canadian author Ruth Ozeki for her novel A Tale for the Time Being.
- Irish novelist Colm Toibin for the Bible-inspired The Testament of Mary.
- British-American writer Jhumpa Lahiri for the family saga The Lowland.
- Zimbabwe's NoViolet Bulawayo for the shantytown-set story We Need New Names.