This year's Man Booker Prize went to Eleanor Catton for her novel The Luminaries, and her victory marked a number of firsts in the prize's 42-year history. The fiction honor is awarded to the best novel of the year written by a citizen of the UK, the Commonwealth, or the Republic of Ireland, and Catton was up against 150 other novelists vying for the award. Judges included critics, writers, poets, politicians, and actors, and along with the award, she also received £50,000. At 28, Catton is the youngest writer to win, having finished the book at just 27. She's only the second New Zealand author to win the award, and The Luminaries clocks in at 832 pages, making it the longest book to ever take home the prize.
Her victory was announced on Tuesday at the Guildhall in London, where Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, gave a speech before Catton accepted her award. Catton posed for pictures with the royal before saying a few words, thanking her publishers and joking about her lengthy read: "I've actually just had to buy a new handbag because my old handbag wasn't big enough to fit my book." The number of pages didn't seem to bother the judges, though — the chair of judges, Robert Macfarlane, called her work "extraordinarily gripping," adding, "Maturity is evident in every sentence, in the rhythms and balances. It is a novel of astonishing control."
Set in 1866, The Luminaries is a murder mystery that takes place during the New Zealand gold rush. When a man named Walter Moody comes to pursue a gold fortune, he comes across a group of 12 men who have gathered in secret to talk about a series of unsolved crimes. He's drawn to the cases, which include a wealthy man's disappearance, a prostitute who tried to end her life, and a huge fortune that's found in the home of a well-known drunk.