Booker Prize 2019

The literary awards circuit took an unexpected turn on Monday when the judges for the Booker Prize made a revolutionary (and stubborn!) decision to award two novels with this honor. Margaret Atwood’s THE TESTAMENTS and Bernardine Evaristo’s GIRL, WOMAN, OTHER. This is not the first time the award has been split in two. According to the New York Times, in 1992 Michael Ondaatje’s “The English Patient” shared it with Barry Unsworth’s “Sacred Hunger,” but the prize’s organizers then changed the rules to only allow one winner to avoid undermining either book.” This year, after hours of deliberating and repeatedly being told they could only choose one winner, the judges threw caution to the wind and broke the rules…again.

If you’re looking for some award-worthy weekend reading, here is some information on these two riveting novels.

THE TESTAMENTS by Margaret Atwood is a #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER. It brings us back into the world Atwood introduced readers to in The Handmaid’s Tale, (winner of the Booker Prize in 1986). Now she brings the iconic story to a dramatic conclusion in this riveting sequel.

The hit Hulu adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale starring Elisabeth Moss won the 2018 Golden Globe for best television series and the 2017 Emmy for outstanding drama.

More than fifteen years after the events of The Handmaid’s Tale, the theocratic regime of the Republic of Gilead maintains its grip on power, but there are signs it is beginning to rot from within. At this crucial moment, the lives of three radically different women converge, with potentially explosive results.

Two have grown up as part of the first generation to come of age in the new order. The testimonies of these two young women are joined by a third voice: a woman who wields power through the ruthless accumulation and deployment of secrets.

As Atwood unfolds The Testaments, she opens up the innermost workings of Gilead as each woman is forced to come to terms with who she is, and how far she will go for what she believes.

GIRL,WOMAN, OTHER by Bernardine Evaristo

“Joyfully polyphonic and vibrantly contemporary, this is a gloriously new kind of history, a novel of our times: celebratory, ever-dynamic and utterly irresistible.”—Booker Prize citation

Evaristo is the first black woman to win the Booker Prize. Girl, Woman, Other is a magnificent portrayal of the intersections of identity and a moving and hopeful story of an interconnected group of Black British women. Girl, Woman, Other paints a vivid portrait of the state of post-Brexit Britain, as well as looking back to the legacy of Britain’s colonial history in Africa and the Caribbean.

The twelve central characters of this multi-voiced novel lead vastly different lives: Amma is a newly acclaimed playwright whose work often explores her Black lesbian identity; her old friend Shirley is a teacher, jaded after decades of work in London’s funding-deprived schools; Carole, one of Shirley’s former students, is a successful investment banker; Carole’s mother Bummi works as a cleaner and worries about her daughter’s lack of rootedness despite her obvious achievements. From a nonbinary social media influencer to a 93-year-old woman living on a farm in Northern England, these unforgettable characters also intersect in shared aspects of their identities, from age to race to sexuality to class.

Sparklingly witty and filled with emotion, centering voices we often see othered, and written in an innovative fast-moving form that borrows technique from poetry, Girl, Woman, Other is a polyphonic and richly textured social novel that shows a side of Britain we rarely see, one that reminds us of all that connects us to our neighbors, even in times when we are encouraged to be split apart.

So you be the judge. Read both books and decide for yourself if the judge’s tenacity and stubbornness was warranted. I think you will find yourself understanding why they broke the rules.

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