At an age when many authors are still just getting warmed up, New Zealand author Eleanor Catton has taken home one of the literary world's big prizes. The 28-year-old won the Man Booker Prize for The Luminaries, a tale of murder and greed in her homeland's 19th-century goldfields. At 848 pages, it is the longest book ever to win the prize, which comes with $80,000 cash and a guaranteed surge in sales. Appearing stunned to have won, Catton thanked her publishers for finding the "elegant balance between making art and making money," reports the New York Times.
The book, which Catton started writing when she was 25, is a "dazzling work," the chair of the judges says. "It's a luminous work. It is vast without being sprawling." The judges, who earlier referred to it as a "Kiwi Twin Peaks," said they "have returned to it three times now and we have dug into it—to use its own metaphors—and the yield it has offered at each new reading has been extraordinary." The prize is currently awarded only to writers from the UK, the Commonwealth, and Ireland, but it will be open to all English-language writers from next year on and some critics believe a long period of American domination lies ahead, the BBC notes.