Margaret Atwood’s book The Testaments and Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other both won the Booker Prize this week.
Judges recognized the prize’s oldest and first black woman winners in a surprise double award. The two writers will split the $62,800 in prize money, the judging panel said.
The award recognizes the best novel of the year written in English and published in Britain and Ireland.
Margaret Atwood won the prize in 2000 for her book The Blind Assassin. The Testaments was published just last month. It is the sequel to the 79-year-old Canadian’s best-selling 1985 novel, The Handmaid’s Tale.
Evaristo is the first black woman to win the prize. Her book Girl, Woman, Other tells the stories of 12 people living in Britain. They are mainly female and black.
While the Booker Prize has been jointly awarded to two writers two times before, the rules changed in 1993 limiting the award to one person. The judges broke those rules, saying they could not agree on a winner between the two books. The judges chose from a list of six novels.
“Neither of us expected to win this,” said Atwood in her acceptance speech.
“I would have thought that 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 ... It would have been embarrassing if I had been alone here,” she said to Evaristo.
Book lovers had been waiting for the release of Atwood’s novel. It returns to the totalitarian state of Gilead some 15 years after the end of The Handmaid’s Tale.
Atwood has said the weakening of women’s rights in some parts of the world led to her writing the sequel. The judges described it as a “savage and beautiful novel.”
In Britain, the book sold just over 100,000 copies in its first week of release.
Her novel The Handmaid’s Tale was itself nominated for the Booker Prize in 1986. It tells the story of women who are banned from reading and writing, and those who can have children are forced into sexual slavery.
Girl, Woman, Other is Evaristo’s eighth book of fiction. The judging panel described the work as “a must-read about modern Britain and womanhood”.
“This is incredible. I suppose 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,” said the 60-year-old British writer.
“I hope that honor doesn’t last too long. I hope that other people come forward now,” she said.
I'm Susan Shand.
The Reuters News Agency reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
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Words in this Story
novel – n. a long written story usually about imaginary events
sequel – n. a book or movie that continues a story begun in another book or film
elderly – adj. old; related to age
embarrassing – adj. causing someone to feel uneasy
totalitarian – adj. controlling the people of a country in a very strict way with complete power that cannot be opposed
savage – adj. very cruel or violent
fiction – n. something invented or imaginary
incredible – adj. unbelievable; unimaginable