In a surprising turn of events Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo have been jointly awarded the 2019 Booker Prize for Fiction for The Testaments and Girl, Woman, Other respectively. Whilst it is not the first time the prize has been awarded jointly, the rules were changed back in the 90’s to rule out such an occasion.
But, cut to 2019 and the judges were unable to separate these two shortlisted novels, with Chair of the Judges Peter Florence stating, “This ten month process has been a wild adventure. In the room today we talked for five hours about books we love. Two novels we cannot compromise on. They are both phenomenal books that will delight readers and will resonate for ages to come.”
It is the second time that Atwood has won the Booker Prize, having won in 2000 with The Blind Assassin. She has also been shortlisted for four further books, including The Handmaid’s Tale (1986), of which The Testaments is a sequel. Bernardine Evaristo is the first black woman to be awarded the Booker Prize.
The Testaments has proven to be one of the biggest publishing events of the year, with many readers ‘eagerly’ anticipating a return to Gilead. Indeed the novel was shortlisted even before its publication, with Peter Florence describing it as “a savage and beautiful novel that speaks to us today with conviction and power.”
Girl, Woman, Other is Evaristo’s eighth novel and follows the lives and struggles of twelve different characters, most of whom are women, black and British. The novel sees Evaristo drawing on aspects of the African diaspora, be it past, present, real or imagined, to inform the work. It was described by the judges as “a must-read about modern Britain and womanhood.”
Atwood and Evaristo will split the £50,000 prize fund equally. Booker winners can usually expect instant international recognition and a distinct boost in sales. Each of the six shortlisted authors will also receive £2,500 and a specially bound edition of their shortlisted novel. The other shortlisted novels were:
- Lucy Ellmann – Ducks, Newburyport
- Chigozie Obioma – An Orchestra of Minorities
- Salman Rushdie – Quichotte
- Elif Shafak – 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World
First awarded in 1969, the Booker Prize is recognised as the leading prize for literary fiction written in English.
Header Image by Jennie Scott (Evaristo) and Liam Sharp (Atwood)