Man Booker candidate's novel flying out the door

By Linda Herrick

Auckland-based writer Eleanor Catton.
Auckland-based writer Eleanor Catton.

Copies of The Luminaries, the New Zealand novel short-listed this week for the Man Booker Prize, are flying off the shelves.

More than 6000 copies of the 832-page book by Auckland-based writer Eleanor Catton have sold in this country since its release on August 1.

Publisher Fergus Barrowman, of Victoria University Press, said because The Luminaries was long-listed for the £50,000 ($97,400) Man Booker before its actual release, "we were out of stock before the short-list announcement and we had orders for another 2000. We are waiting for our next two reprints already."

Catton, who is touring book festivals in Britain, will come back to Auckland next week before returning to London for the award ceremony on October 15. Mr Barrowman will accompany her.

"I have been trying to tell myself that anything beyond here is a bonus and go into the event with no expectations because that is the best way to protect your sanity," he said.

"But reading the quality of the reviews and the accurate praise by the Booker judges and their comments so far, it really does feel like a ... contender."

The 2013 shortlist has been hailed by British critics as the "best in a decade" (the Guardian) and "exceptionally international" (the Telegraph). The other contenders are British writer Jim Crace (for Harvest), Canadian Ruth Ozeki (A Tale for the Time Being), Ireland's Colm Toibin (The Testament of Mary), London-born, US-based Jhumpa Lahiri (The Lowland) and We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo, of Zimbabwe.

The author

Born in Ontario, Canada, Eleanor Catton moved to New Zealand with her family when she was 6 years old. The Luminaries is her second book. The Rehearsal, written when she was 22, won best first book prize in the 2009 Montana Book Awards.

The book

The Luminaries is set in Hokitika in 1866. It centres around a clandestine, menacing council of 12 men, each one representing the 12 signs of the zodiac. Catton used an online "star generator" to exactly replicate the night-sky of the dates represented in the novel.

The Booker judges said: "It is an exuberant homage to Victorian sensation novels ... with opium dens, fallen women, fortunes lost, found and squandered, murders and blackmail but it's a very knowing and post-modern homage to the sensation novel. I couldn't really think of many novels it was like, in some ways it seemed more like a Kiwi Twin Peaks."

The odds

British bookmakers Ladbrokes are backing Irish writer Jim Crace as the favourite at 5/2; William Hill put Crace at 11/4. Catton is second favourite: Ladbrokes: 4/1; William Hill: 5/1

Catton is the third New Zealand writer to be shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, after Keri Hulme, who won it in 1985, and Lloyd Jones. If Catton wins, she will be the youngest author to take the Man Booker.

Eleanor Catton's second book The Luminaries has been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

- NZ Herald

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