New Zealand author Eleanor Catton won the 2013 Man Booker prize for English fiction for her novel "The Luminaries", to become the youngest winner in the award's 45-year history.

Chair of judges Robert Macfarlane on Tuesday described the 28-year-old Catton's 848-page second novel set in the New Zealand goldfields of 1866 as "dazzling" and "very, very clever".

"The Luminaries is a magnificent novel: awesome in its structural complexity; addictive in its story-telling and magical in its conjuring of a world of greed and gold," he said.

Catton's story tells the tale of Walter Moody, who arrives in the goldfields to seek his fortune and immediately stumbles across a tense gathering of local men, who have met in secret to discuss a series of unsolved crimes.

Catton thanked her publishers for their patience with such a long novel and allowing her the freedom to explore her theme without pressure to make an obviously commercial novel.

"I was free throughout to concern myself with questions not of value but of worth," she said as she accepted the award.

The other shortlisted authors for the prize were Canadian Ruth Ozeki for "A Tale for the Time Being", Indian-American Jhumpa Lahiri for "The Lowland", Zimbabwean NoViolet Bulawayo for "We Need New Names", Briton Jim Crace for "Harvest" and Irish writer Colm Toibin for "The Testament of Mary".

Source: Agencies