For the first time since 1992, the Booker Prize award has been given to two authors this year.
Judges broke their own rules by declaring that both Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo deserved the Booker Prize award. Judges said that they “couldn’t separate” the two works.
According to Peter Florence, the Chair of Judges, it took five hours of deliberation and “it was [their] decision to flout the rules”.
He added, “The more we talked about them, the more we found we loved them both so much we wanted them both to win.”
The two winning books are Atwood’s The Testaments, her sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, and Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other.
Both winners will split the prize money of £50,000 equally.
But the fact there was two winners this year isn’t the only remarkable thing. Margaret Atwood is also the oldest ever winner, aged 79, and Bernardine Evaristo is the first black woman to win the award.
The Testaments is the sequel to Handmaid’s Tale and picks up 15 years later, where we return to totalitarian Gilead. It’s narrated by handmaid instructor Aunt Lydia, as well as two teenage girls. It sold more than 100,000 copies in the UK in its first week alone.
Peter Florence said, “It does massively more than follow the single story that we had from Offred. This is beautiful in its depth and exploration of the world of Gilead.”
As for Bernandine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other, it follows the lives of twelve women, most of whom are black British women, and spans more than 100 years.
Evaristo herself was born in Woolwich, South East London, and said of her novel, “We black British women know that if we don’t write ourselves into literature no one else will.”
Peter Florence said that the book was “utterly magical” and added that it “give a wonderful spectrum of black British women today”.
Speaking about her Booker Prize win on Radio 4, Bernardine Evaristo said, “A black woman has never won. Only four black women have ever been shortlisted and there have been about 300 books shortlisted.
“Hopefully this signals a new direction for the Booker and the kind of judges they have. This year there were four women judges and one male.
She added, “I hope more black women win this prize.”
Margaret Atwood also shared her thoughts, adding, “It’s great to be sharing with Bernardine… and I certainly hope you’ll come to Canada, bring your warm clothing!”
She then told Evaristo, “What you have done is to make it possible for more black women to consider that writing is something they can do.”
Congratulations to both winners!