Eleanor Catton

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Eleanor (Ellie) Catton
Eleanor Catton.jpg
Eleanor Catton in 2012
Born (1985-09-24) 24 September 1985 (age 29)
London, Ontario, Canada
Occupation Novelist
Nationality New Zealand
Notable works The Luminaries
Notable awards 2013 Man Booker Prize
from the BBC programme Woman's Hour, 9 September 2013.[1]


Eleanor Catton MNZM (born 24 September 1985) is a Canadian-born New Zealand author. Her second novel, The Luminaries, won the 2013 Man Booker Prize.

Early life[edit]

Catton was born in Canada where her New Zealand father was a graduate student completing his doctorate at the University of Western Ontario. She grew up in Christchurch after her family returned to New Zealand when she was six years old; she spent a year living in Leeds where she attended Lawnswood School. She referred to this experience as "amazing, but a real eye opener" due to the toughness of the environment.[2][3] She attended Burnside High School, studied English at the University of Canterbury, and completed a Master's degree in Creative Writing at The Institute of Modern Letters, Victoria University of Wellington.[citation needed] Catton is related to author Bruce Catton.[4]


Catton's 2008 debut novel, The Rehearsal, was written as her Master's thesis[5] and deals with reactions to an affair between a male teacher and a girl at his secondary school. That year, she was awarded a fellowship to the Iowa Writers' Workshop.[6]

In 2009 she was described by the British Daily Mail as "this year's golden girl of fiction".[7] In 2011, she was the Ursula Bethell Writer in Residence at the University of Canterbury.[8]

2013–present: The Luminaries and Man Booker Prize[edit]

Catton's second novel, The Luminaries, was published in 2013. The novel is set on the goldfields of New Zealand in 1866. It was shortlisted for and subsequently won the 2013 Man Booker Prize making Catton, at the age of 28, the youngest author ever to win the Booker.[9][10] She was previously, at the age of 27, the youngest author ever to be shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.[9]

At 832 pages, The Luminaries is the longest work to win the prize in its 45-year history.[10] The chair of the judges, Robert Macfarlane commented "It's a dazzling work. It's a luminous work. It is vast without being sprawling." Catton was presented with the prize by the Duchess of Cornwall on 15 October 2013 at Guildhall.[10]

In November 2013 Catton was awarded the Canadian Governor General's Literary Award for fiction for The Luminaries.[11] In January 2014 it was announced that Catton would be awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Literature in May at Victoria University of Wellington,[12] where she has studied. On 18 March 2014 she was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to literature.[13]


During an interview at the Jaipur Literary Festival in January 2015, Catton said in passing that the governments of Australia, Canada and New Zealand were countries led by[14]

Prime Minister John Key said he was disappointed at Catton's lack of respect for his Government and claimed she was aligned with the Green Party. The next day he said her views should not be given any more credence than those of the Mad Butcher or Richie McCaw.[16] On air RadioLive host Sean Plunket called her a traitor and an "ungrateful hua".[17] The Taxpayers' Union also released a media statement showing Catton had received around $50,000 in Creative New Zealand support over her career. Jordan Williams of the Taxpayers' Union argued that: "if Ms Catton isn't thankful for the support by the New Zealand Government while she wrote The Luminaries, maybe she should use some of the substantial royalties to pay the money back".[18]

In a blog post responding to the affair, Catton commented that her reported remarks were a condensed part of a larger interview, and she was puzzled why her comment at the Jaipur festival had generated such controversy: "I’ve been speaking freely to foreign journalists ever since I was first published overseas, and have criticised the Key government, neo-liberal values, and our culture of anti-intellectualism many times."[19] She goes on to say:

The criticism of Catton caused a media storm, including the publication of numerous cartoons,[20] and was described by one commentator as 'Cattongate'.[21] In an opinion piece, Bryce Edwards quoted numerous commentators who supported Catton's right to express her views. He said the 'Catton controversy' reflected the hollowness of public debate in New Zealand, and of the media and politics, and is increasingly of concern to some academics, researchers, and journalists. He also said that for some people, the saga also relates to the more recent Dirty Politics scandal.[21]

Personal life[edit]

Catton lives in Auckland with her fiancé, American expatriate author and poet Steven Toussaint, and teaches creative writing at the Manukau Institute of Technology.[22][23]

Awards and honours[edit]



Other published works[edit]

  • Short stories published in Best New Zealand Fiction Vol. 5 (2008), Penguin Book of Contemporary New Zealand Short Stories (August 2009), and Granta (106, Summer 2009).


  1. ^ "Eleanor Catton". Woman's Hour. 9 September 2013. BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 18 January 2014. 
  2. ^ Tivnan, Tom (15 October 2013). "Eleanor Catton Interview". The Bookseller. Retrieved 17 October 2013. 
  3. ^ Cochrane, Kira (7 September 2013). "Eleanor Catton: 'I'm strongly influenced by box-set TV drama. At last the novel has found its screen equivalent'". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media. Retrieved 19 September 2013. 
  4. ^ Blackstock, Russell (14 September 2014). "Luminaries shine in Catton's family tree". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 22 June 2015. 
  5. ^ Clarkson, Annie (4 August 2009). "‘I am still astonished and a little bit suspicious that The Rehearsal has even been published’ – An Interview with Eleanor Catton | Bookmunch". Bookmunch. Retrieved 19 September 2013. 
  6. ^ McEvoy, Mark (14 September 2013). "Interview: Eleanor Catton". Brisbane Times (Fairfax Media). Retrieved 19 September 2013. 
  7. ^ McKay, Carla (21 July 2009). "Eleanor Catton: The Rehearsal". Daily Mail (DMG Media). Retrieved 19 September 2013. 
  8. ^ "Ursula Bethell Residency in Creative Writing". Retrieved 16 October 2013. 
  9. ^ a b Morris, Linda (11 September 2013). "Eleanor Catton youngest author ever shortlisted for Booker". The Age. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 19 September 2013. 
  10. ^ a b c Masters, Tim (15 October 2013). "Man Booker Prize: Eleanor Catton becomes youngest winner with The Luminaries". BBC News. Retrieved 15 October 2013. 
  11. ^ Eleanor Catton honoured with Canadian literary award. 3 News NZ. 15 November 2013.
  12. ^ "Victoria University to confer honorary doctorate on Eleanor Catton". Victoria University of Wellington. 28 January 2014. Retrieved 28 January 2014. 
  13. ^ "How Catton's life changed after Man Booker win". Stuff.co.nz. 18 March 2014. 
  14. ^ Deborah Hill Cone: Catton success illuminated nation, New Zealand Herald, 2 February 2015
  15. ^ Paul Little: Key and Plunket prove Catton's point, New Zealand Herald, 1 February 2015
  16. ^ Eleanor Catton has 'no particular great insights into politics', says John Key, New Zealand Herald, 2 February 2015
  17. ^ "Catton a 'traitor', says Plunket". Otago Daily Times. 28 January 2015. 
  18. ^ "Kiwis have been generous to Catton, says Taxpayers' Union". The New Zealand Herald. 30 January 2015. Retrieved 2 February 2015. 
  19. ^ a b Catton, Eleanor. "A Statement". eleanor-catton.com. Retrieved 2 February 2015. 
  20. ^ Cartoons & images of Cattongate, Bryce Edwards
  21. ^ a b Bryce Edwards: The politics of Eleanor Catton and public debate, New Zealand Herald, 3 February 2015
  22. ^ "Eleanor Catton's success is written in the stars". The Herald (Newsquest). 7 September 2013. Retrieved 19 September 2013. 
  23. ^ Higgins, Charlotte (16 October 2013). "Eleanor Catton: 'Male writers get asked what they think, women what they feel'". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 February 2015. 
  24. ^ Adam Award Winners
  25. ^ a b c "Contributor information from Granta magazine". 
  26. ^ Betty Trask Award Winners
  27. ^ NZ Society of Authors Awards
  28. ^ "Guardian first book award". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media. 28 November 2009. Retrieved 19 September 2013. 
  29. ^ "Eleanor Catton on Orange Prize long list". Stuff.co.nz. NZPA. 17 March 2010. Retrieved 29 September 2011. 
  30. ^ [1] Amazon.ca: First Novel Award Books, April 2011
  31. ^ "Eleanor Catton wins Governor General’s Literary Award for The Luminaries". Toronto Star, November 13, 2013.
  32. ^ "Walter Scott Prize Shortlist 2014". Walter Scott Prize. 4 April 2014. Retrieved May 27, 2014. 

External links[edit]