Booker Prize 2019: Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo named joint winners

Francesca Specter
Yahoo Style UK deputy editor

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The Booker Prize for 2019 has been awarded jointly to Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo.

The pair will split the award’s £50,000 prize money: Atwood for The Testaments – her long-anticipated follow-up to The Handmaid’s Tale – and Evaristo for her novel Girl, Woman, Other.

At 79, Atwood is the oldest ever Booker winner, while Evaristo, 60, is the first black woman ever to win the award.

After the pair’s names were announced, they responded by walking on-stage arm-in-arm.

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"I would have thought I would have been too elderly, and I kind of don't need the attention, so I'm very glad that you're getting some,” Atwood said of the tie.

Joint winners Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo attend The 2019 Booker Prize Winner Announcement. [Photo: Getty]

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"It would have been quite embarrassing for me… if I had been alone here, so I'm very pleased that you're here too."

In her acceptance speech, Evaristo said: “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."

Breaking the rules

The move broke official Booker prize rules – which have, since a previous tie in 1992, specified the prize could not be shared. The only other tie was in 1974.

However, after five hours of deliberation, judges concluded they “couldn’t separate” the two works.

Booker Prize: From left to right, Gaby Wood (Literary Director Booker Prize), Margaret Atwood, Bernardine Evaristo and Peter Florence (Chair of Judges) during 2019 Booker Prize Winner Announcement photocall. [Photo: Getty]

Peter Florence, chair of the judges, told reporters: “It was our decision to flout the rules.”

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

The winning novels

The Testaments, published in September this year, is set in the patriarchal dystopian world of Gilead, and is narrated by Aunt Lydia, a returning character from The Handmaid’s Tale. It sold more than 100,000 in its first week of publication, making it the fastest-selling hardback in four years.

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According to Florence, "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 she has said, 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 is the eighth novel from Evaristo. It follows the lives of 12 different character, predominantly black British women.

Of the character, Florence said: “They give a wonderful spectrum of black British women today.

"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."

Man Booker Prize nominees

This year’s other nominated novels were:

Shop the award-winning books

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood | £10

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo | £11.89