Lighting Up the Longlist with Her Second Novel
New Zealand author Eleanor Catton, 27, has made the Man Booker Prize longlist for her novel, The Luminaries, which will be released in New Zealand on 1 August and in the US in October. Catton is the youngest of the 13 nominees. With a prize of more than US$58,000, the Man Booker has one of the world’s largest awards for a single work. Its longlist and shortlist are celebrated in England, where the contest is tracked by betting agencies. The gala award ceremony, which takes place on 15 October, is broadcast nationally on the BBC.
A murder mystery set in and around Hokitika in the gold rush year of 1866, The Luminaries uses astrological star charts as an organising principle, rotating 12 characters born under 12 different star signs through a complex 12-month schema, while eight other characters move in and out of phase with them. It is over 800 pages long. “The idea was that a man turns up in a bar on the West Coast, during the gold rush,” Catton tells the New Zealand Listener’s David Larsen.
“He has his own weather. He’s extremely wet, and it’s obvious it’s raining on him, but it’s not raining on anyone else. So he’s kind of treated with suspicion, but he sits down and he’s given a meal, and as he begins to eat his chest begins to bleed. He kind of staggers back, and it becomes obvious he’s been shot. And again, this is very strange, because nobody in the room has shot him, and there’s no audible gun shot. So that was the first idea.” Catton’s acclaimed 2007 debut novel The Rehearsal was written as her Master’s thesis, while studying at Victoria University’s Institute of Modern Letters.