In an unexpected move, the judges of this year's Booker Prize have awarded the celebrated literary accolade to two books: The Testaments by Margaret Atwood and Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo. The chair of judges, Peter Florence, said that despite the pressure to choose one winner 'we found that there were two novels. Not that we couldn't let go of but that we desperately wanted to win this year's prize.'
Margaret Atwood became the second woman to have won the Booker twice, after first being awarded the prize in 2000 with The Blind Assassin. Her worldwide bestseller and opening story to The Testaments, The Handmaid’s Tale, was shortlisted in 1986, as well as novels Cat’s Eye (1989), Alias Grace (1996) and Oryx and Crake (2003). Accepting the award Atwood said 'I'm very surprised. I thought i would have been too elderly. And I kind of don't need the attention so I'm very glad that you [Bernadine Evaristo] are getting some.'
A dystopian masterpiece inspired by the world of today, The Testaments takes us into Gilead’s inner workings, and after 15 years, it is rotting from within. At this crucial moment, the lives of three radically different women converge. Described as ‘a rallying cry for activism that argues for the connectedness of societies and their peoples…’ (The Guardian), the novel takes on a new form of hope than that of The Handmaid’s Tale. Others have noted that while it is 'unflinching in depicting horror and showing how complicity enables the collapse of compassion, The Testaments is also a clarion call to hope, resistance and activism'. (iNews)
Bernardine Evaristo also became the first black woman to win the Booker Prize which she acknolwedged in her accpetance speach with her hope that the 'honour doesn't last too long'. Her magnificent Girl, Woman, Other follows the lives and struggles of twelve very different people in Britain, predominantly female and black. Aged 19 to 93, they span a variety of ages, cultural backgrounds, sexualities, classes and occupations as they tell the stories of themselves, their families, friends and lovers, across the country and through the years.
The book has been described as ‘a triumphantly wide-ranging novel…a big, bold, sexy book that cracks open a world that needs to be known’ (Sunday Times); and 'the intermingling stories of generations of black British women told in a gloriously rich and readable free verse, [which] will surely be seen as a landmark in British fiction.’ (The Guardian)
In addition to her writing achievements, Bernardine has also founded several successful initiatives as a literary activist for inclusion. They include Spread the Word, a writer development agency; The Complete Works mentoring scheme for poets of colour (2007-2017); and the Brunel International African Poetry Prize.
Becky Hardie, Deputy Publishing Director at Chatto & Windus celebrated Margaret's win: ‘Margaret Atwood launched The Testaments here in London on the day our parliament was prorogued and the book was instantly adopted as a potent political symbol. This is what literature is for, and it feels so absolutely right that this book and author have won this important prize this year. We couldn’t be happier or prouder to have been part of The Testaments phenomenon.’
** SUNDAY TIMES NO. 1 BESTSELLER **
BOOK OF THE YEAR: Daily Telegraph, Evening Standard, Stylist, Sunday Times, Financial Times, Guardian, The Times, Observer, Red
Margaret Atwood’s dystopian masterpiece, The Handmaid’s Tale, is a modern classic. Now she brings the iconic story to a dramatic conclusion in this riveting sequel.
More than fifteen years after the events of The Handmaid’s Tale, the theocratic regime of the Republic of Gilead maintains its grip on power, but there are signs it is beginning to rot from within. At this crucial moment, the lives of three radically different women converge, with potentially explosive results.
Two have grown up as part of the first generation to come of age in the new order. The testimonies of these two young women are joined by a third voice: a woman who wields power through the ruthless accumulation and deployment of secrets.
As Atwood unfolds The Testaments, she opens up the innermost workings of Gilead as each woman is forced to come to terms with who she is, and how far she will go for what she believes.
‘Dear Readers: Everything you’ve ever asked me about Gilead and its inner workings is the inspiration for this book. Well, almost everything! The other inspiration is the world we’ve been living in.' Margaret Atwood