Congratulations to Eleanor Catton, who has won the Man Booker prize for The Luminaries, her complex novel set in the New Zealand goldfields in 1866. At 28, she is the youngest-ever Booker winner, defying the wisdom of the pundits who thought the trophy, and the £50,000 (Dh294,000) cheque, would go to the more-established Jim Crace, for Harvest.
Much comment has revolved around the fact that Ms Catton’s book has 832 pages – making it the longest book to win the Booker in its 45-year history. The writer even joked to the BBC that she was forced to buy a bigger handbag just to carry the manuscript.
At a time when we are told that people’s attention spans are shrinking, thanks to 15-second television news sound bites and 140-character tweets, it’s worth noting that books are getting bigger.
That’s true not just of literary fiction – the exception being Colm Toibin’s Booker shortlisted The Testament of Mary, which runs to just 69 pages in some editions – but of lighter fare such as the Game of Thrones series and the Harry Potter books, which magically grew with each instalment.
The win will mean an immediate sales boost for The Luminaries. But carry it with care: you wouldn’t want to drop it on your foot.