Drawing: Eleanor Catton

Autographed drawing of author Eleanor Catton

It’s always nice to catch up with a fellow kiwi in London, and in this case a very distinguished New Zealander, Man Booker Prize winner Eleanor Catton. Born in Canada, while her father completed his doctorate at the University of Western Ontario, she grew up in Christchurch on east coast of NZ’s South Island. Eleanor’s second novel, THE LUMINARIES won the Man Booker Prize in 2013.

At the age of 28, she was the youngest recipient of the prestigious literary award. It was also the longest book to win, with 832 pages. The chair of the judging panel, Robert Macfarlane said, “It’s a dazzling work. It’s a luminous work. It is vast without being sprawling.”

Set in 1866, THE LUMINARIES follows Walter Moody, a prospector who heads to Hokitika on the opposite coast to Christchurch to make his fortune in the goldfields, but stumbles on a meeting of twelve local men and is drawn into a complex mystery that is covering up a series of unsolved crimes. Each of the twelve men are associated with the twelve signs of the zodiac, astrological principles, the sun and the moon – ‘the luminaries’ in the title. Each of the novel’s twelve parts decreases in length to mimic the waning of the moon. As Eleanor herself said, “It’s a kind of weird sci-fi fantasy thing.”

Eleanor was in London over the weekend speaking at the ‘Series Man Booker 50′ as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Prize. I met her at the Queen Elizabeth Hall Artists’ Entrance on Saturday, where we ‘conversed in kiwi’ as she signed my sketch.

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