What were you doing at age 28? If you were author Eleanor Catton, you would be graciously accepting Britain’s highest literary honor, the Man Booker Prize. Catton won the prestigious award for her second novel The Luminaries. In addition to making her the youngest recipient in the history of the prize, Catton’s 832 page novel is also the longest work to ever win.
The Luminaries is set in New Zealand during the gold rush of 1866. Catton knows the country well, as she moved from Canada to New Zealand at the age of six.
Here is an excerpt from the novel, published by London’s The Telegraph. Click here to read the longer sampling:
MERCURY IN SAGITTARIUS
In which a stranger arrives in Hokitika; a secret council is disturbed; Walter Moody conceals his most recent memory; and Thomas Balfour begins to tell a story.
The twelve men congregated in the smoking room of the Crown Hotel gave the impression of a party accidentally met. From the variety of their comportment and dress – frock coats, tailcoats, Norfolk jackets with buttons of horn, yellow moleskin, cambric, and twill – they might have been twelve strangers on a railway car, each bound for a separate quarter of a city that possessed fog and tides enough to divide them; indeed, the studied isolation of each man as he pored over his paper, or leaned forward to tap his ashes into the grate, or placed the splay of his hand upon the baize to take his shot at billiards, conspired to form the very type of bodily silence that occurs, late in the evening, on a public railway – deadened here not by the slur and clunk of the coaches, but by the fat clatter of the rain.
Such was the perception of Mr. Walter Moody, from where he stood in the doorway with his hand upon the frame. He was innocent of having disturbed any kind of private conference, for the speakers had ceased when they heard his tread in the passage; by the time he opened the door, each of the twelve men had resumed his occupation (rather haphazardly, on the part of the billiard players, for they had forgotten their places) with such a careful show of absorption that no one even glanced up when he stepped into the room.
This award marks the last in which Americans are not eligible to win. In 2014, the Man Booker will also accept submissions from across the pond. The only stipulations for consideration are that the work is published in English and that it is available for purchase in the U.K. This year, Catton won against the following nominees: A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, Harvest by Jim Crace, The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri, The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin and We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo. In 2012, Hilary Mantel won for Bring Up the Bodies, her sequel to Wolf Hall. Wolf Hall won it in 2009.