Flouting tradition, this year’s prestigious Booker Prize for Fiction is to be shared by Bernardine Evaristo, author of Girl, Woman, Other, and Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood, for The Testaments.
It is the first time in more than two decades that the prize has been shared. The winners will split the £50,000 ($62,900) prize following a ceremony in London this evening—as well as copious media attention and a likely boost in book sales.
Atwood, who won the prize in 2000, was the favorite to win this year’s award for The Testaments, which The Guardian called “a subtle, moral novel that is both a clear response to the urgency of the political moment and an attempt to reach beyond the headlines.” It is the sequel to the much-lauded dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale, recently adapted into an award-winning Hulu television series.
Evaristo, who is the first black woman to receive the prize, is well-known in her native Britain for her experimental work. Girl, Woman, Other is her eighth work of fiction. Written in a mixture of poetry and prose, it tackles issues of race, gender, and colonialism through the lives of around a dozen black British women.
The winners beat out four other shortlisted finalists—Lucy Ellmann, Chigozie Obioma, Salman Rushdie, and Elif Shafak—whose work included: An Orchestra of Minorities, a modern-day Odyssey set between Nigeria and Cyprus; Ducks, Newburyport, a novel made up of a handful of near-endless sentences tracking the ruminations of a middle-aged Ohio woman; Quichotte, a controversial retelling of Don Quixote through the eyes of a traveling pharmaceutical salesman in America; and 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World, which recounts the heartbreaking memories of a prostitute and child abuse survivor as she lays dying in a landfill.
The six finalists were chosen by a panel of five judges from a long-list of 13 books, which included Oyinkan Braithwaite’s My Sister, The Serial Killer and Deborah Levy’s The Man Who Saw Everything. The chairman of the judging panel, Peter Florence, said the authors “imagine our world, familiar from news cycle disaster and grievance, with wild humor, deep insight and a keen humanity.”
“If you only read one book this year,” he said, “make a leap. Really—read all of them.”