Books  |  Oct 15, 2019

Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo joint winners of 2019 Booker Prize

Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo have been named joint winners of the 2019 Booker Prize for Fiction.

Atwood's The Testaments and Evaristo's Girl, Woman, Other share the prize for the first time since 1993, when the rules were changed so only one author could win the prize. Prior to this, the Booker Prize had been jointly awarded twice before, to Nadine Gordimer and Stanley Middleton in 1974 and to Michael Ondaatje and Barry Unsworth in 1992.

It is the second time that Atwood has won the Booker Prize, having won in 2000 with The Blind Assassin. She has been shortlisted for four further books: The Handmaid’s Tale (1986), Cat’s Eye (1989), Alias Grace (1996) and Oryx and Crake (2003). She is the fourth author to win the prize twice.

The New York Times said, “Atwood’s sheer assurance as a storyteller makes for a fast, immersive narrative that’s as propulsive as it is melodramatic,” while the Guardian wrote that Atwood’s “angry, pacey sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale admits a ray of light into Gilead’s toxic world”.

Bernardine Evaristo is the first black woman to be awarded the Booker Prize. She wins with Girl, Woman, Other, her eighth book of fiction, which she has written alongside essays, drama and writing for BBC radio. Evaristo drew on aspects of the African diaspora, be it past, present, real of imagined, to inform Girl, Woman, Other.

Chair of the 2019 judges, Peter Florence, comments:

“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.”

Gaby Wood, Literary Director of the Booker Prize Foundation, adds:

“Over an agonising five hours, the 2019 Booker Prize judges discussed all of the much-loved books on their shortlist, and found it impossible to single out one winner. They were not so much divided as unwilling to jettison any more when they finally got down to two, and asked if they might split the prize between them. On being told that it was definitively against the rules, the judges held a further discussion and chose to flout them. They left the judging room happy and proud, their twin winners gesturing towards the six they would have wanted, had it been possible to split the prize any further.”