Irish novelist Anne Enright has been awarded this year's Man Booker prize for her novel The Gathering.

Her book, which narrates the story of a woman who explores her family's past after her brother's suicide, beat five other contenders to take the £50,000 prize at yesterday's ceremony at the Guildhall in London.

Speaking about the decision, Sir Howard Davies, the chair of the panel of judges said: "The Gathering is an unflinching look at a grieving family in tough and striking language.

"We think she is an impressive novelist, we expect to hear a lot more from her.

"The book is powerful, it pulls you along and it has an absolutely brilliant ending. It has one of the best last sentences of any novel I have ever read," he added.

Ms Enright said she was surprised by the announcement, adding that the joy of the victory had not yet set in.

She told the BBC: "I am still churning it through. Tomorrow, I'll wake up and go 'whoopee'.

"I was ready for anything - possibly anything except that," she added.

Commenting about her book's content, Ms Enright said: "When people pick up a book they may want something happy that will cheer them up.

"In that case they shouldn't really pick up my book. It's the intellectual equivalent of a Hollywood weepie".

The Gathering faced stiff competition from former prize winner Ian McEwan, with his book On Chesil Beach the Ladbrokes' favourite for the award. Other British authors shortlisted for the prize were Nicola Barker for her novel Darkmans and Mohsin Hamid for The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

Two other books, Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones from New Zealand and Animal's People by Indian novelist Indra Sinha, were also in the running for the award.

17/10/2007 06:34:09