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Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo share the 2019 Booker Prize

4/04/2020 9:00 PM
Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo share the 2019 Booker Prize

In a rule-breaking decision, both Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo have been awarded the 2019 Booker Prize, with both authors sharing in the £50,000 award. 

Atwood won for The Testaments, her heavily anticipated followup to The Handmaid's Tale; Evaristo won for her groundbreaking novel Girl, Woman, Other, which explores the lives black british women across history.

The rule-breaking decision is also a record-making one; Atwood is the oldest ever Booker winner at 79, and Evaristo is the first black woman to be awarded the prize. 

It's the first tie since 1992, where the rules were changed to forbid picking more than one winner. This year, after five hours of deliberations, the judges elected to break the rules because they couldn't decide between the two. Chair of the judges Peter Florence said,

'The more we talked about them, the more we found we loved them both so much we wanted them both to win.'

The Testaments picks up 15 years after the end of The Handmaid's Tale, returning to the totalitarian Gilead from the perspective of Aunt Lydia and two teenage girls. Florence said of the novel, 

'It might have looked like science fiction back in the day, although all of the extremities are rooted in fact. Now it looks more politically urgent than ever before.' 

Girl, Woman, Other spans 100 years and dedicates a chapter each to 12 interwining characters, the majority of which are black British women. Florence said of the novel, 

'There are stories there of people who haven't been visibly represented in contemporary literature, and in that sense this book is groundbreaking, and I hope encouraging and inspiring to the rest of the publishing industry.'

In her acceptance speech Evaristo said she hoped it wouldn't be long before another black woman was awarded the prize; 

'It's so incredible to share this with Margaret Atwood, who's such a legend and so generous. A lot of people say, 'I never thought it would happen to me', and I will say I am the first black woman to win this prize, and I hope that honour doesn't last too long. I hope other people come forward now.'