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Canadian-born Eleanor Catton wins Booker

(photo: Janie Airey)

Canadian-born author Eleanor Catton has won the Man Booker Prize for her sprawling second novel, The Luminaries (McClelland & Stewart), an historical epic set during the 1860s New Zealand gold rush.

At 28, Catton, who grew up in New Zealand, is the youngest author to win the prestigious literary prize, worth £50,000 (roughly $83,000). Weighing in at more than 800 pages, the novel is also the lengthiest winning tome in the prize’s 45-year history.

Catton is the first Canadian to win the Booker since Yann Martel took home the prize in 2002 for Life of Pi. Canadians Michael Ondaatje (The English Patient, 1992) and Margaret Atwood (The Blind Assassin, 2000) have also won.

The Booker win is certain to skyrocket Catton to a new level of literary fame. She received acclaim for her debut, The Rehearsal, which won the 2010 Amazon.ca First Novel Award. The Luminaries is also nominated for a Governor General’s Literary Award.

In Q&Q‘s review of The Luminaries, Vit Wagner writes that the novel ranks “as a remarkable achievement for a writer of any age” and “can be enjoyed for its engrossing entirety, as well as for the literary gems bestowed on virtually every page.”

Catton’s win comes at the end of an era for the Booker, which until now has been open to writers only from the U.K. and Commonwealth. Next year, all writers who have published an English-language novel in the U.K., regardless of nationality, will be eligible for the prize.