Jhumpa Lahiri loses out in Booker race to Eleanor Catton

London: Indian-American novelist Jhumpa Lahiri lost out on the Man Booker Prize to Eleanor Catton, who has become the youngest writer to win the prestigious literary prize here.

At 832 pages, Catton`s `The Luminaries` was the longest novel and described as an "extraordinary" 19th century gold rush murder mystery.

"I thank the Man Booker Prize for providing value and worth jointly with this extraordinary prize," the 28-year-old New Zealander, who began writing the novel when she was just 25, said yesterday.

She was presented with the coveted award worth 50,000 pounds by Camilla Parker-Bowles, Duchess of Cornwall, at a glittering ceremony in London`s Guildhall.

This year`s chair of judges, writer and critic Robert Macfarlane, admitted readers needed to make a "huge investment" in the huge tome, which is challenging with a slow start but the dividends were more than worth it.

"We have returned to it three times. We have dug into it and the yield it has offered at each new reading has been extraordinary," he said.

London-born Lahiri`s `The Lowland`, a tale about two brothers brought up in Calcutta in the late 1960s, was lauded by the judges as a "seismological" story which was told with "impeccable lucidity".

Raised in London, Boston and Rhode Island by immigrant parents from West Bengal, the book is Lahiri`s second novel and fourth book.

Her first collection of short stories, `The Interpreter of Maladies`, won the Pulitzer Prize and her first novel, `The Namesake` was turned into a film by Mira Nair, and her second book of stories, `Unaccustomed Earth`, became a bestseller as soon as it was published.

This year`s Booker shortlist, announced last month, included six writers of different nationalities, including Canada, Britain, Ireland, New Zealand and, for the first time in the prize`s history, Zimbabwe.

Others`in the race included the bookies` favourite Jim Crace with `Harvest`, NoViolet Bulawayo`s `We Need New Names`, about a Zimbabwean girl coming of age in the US. Ruth Ozeki`s `A Tale For The Time Being` tells the story of a diary washed ashore inside a Hello Kitty lunchbox and the profound effect it has on the woman who discovers it.

Colm Toibin`s `The Testament of Mary` is about the mother of Jesus grieving angrily years after her son`s crucifixion. At a little over 100 pages, it would was the shortest novel in the line up.

A week after the shortlist was announced, the Man Booker organisers announced that authors writing in English from all corners of the globe would be eligible for the prize from 2014.

All six shortlisted writers are each awarded 2,500 pounds and presented with a hand-bound edition of their book.

This year marks the 45th year of the prize, which was won last year by Hilary Mantel for Bring Up the Bodies, making her the first woman and first Briton to win the coveted award twice.