Book - Booker Prize


The judges have broken the Booker Prize rules and announced TWO winners of this year's Booker Prize...

Press Release

In a shock announcement, the judges of the 2019 Booker Prize for Fiction have awarded the prize to two authors: Margaret Atwood for The Testaments and Bernardine Evaristo for Girl, Woman, Other.

The Booker Prize has been jointly awarded twice before, to Nadine Gordimer and Stanley Middleton in 1974 and to Michael Ondaatje and Barry Unsworth in 1992. In 1993, the rules were changed so that only one author could win the prize. This is the first time since then that two authors have been announced as joint-winners. The 2019 winners will share the £50,000 prize money.

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. It is the second time that Margaret 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).

Chair of the 2019 judges, Peter Florence, said “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, added “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.”


Margaret Atwood's The Testaments is set 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.

Writing on the story behind her book for The Guardian, Atwood said: “In many ways, The Testaments is an answer to all the questions readers have been asking me about The Handmaid’s Tale over the years. But it also belongs to our moment of history, when things in a number of countries seem to be heading more toward Gilead than away from it”.

The Judges said “It is a savage and beautiful novel that speaks to us today with conviction and power. The bar is set unusually high for Atwood. She soars.”

The Testaments is published by Penguin Random House imprint Chatto and Windus making it the fourth time the prize has been won by that imprint. Previous winners published by Chatto and Windus are: The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan in 2014; Possession by A.S. Byatt in 1990; and The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch in 1978.


Bernardine Evaristo's Girl, Woman, Other follows the lives and struggles of 12 very different characters. Mostly women, black and British, they tell the stories of their families, friends and lovers, across the country and through the years. Joyfully polyphonic and vibrantly contemporary, this is a new kind of history, a novel of our times: celebratory, ever-dynamic and utterly irresistible.

Writing on the story behind her book for The Guardian, Evaristo said: “Fiction excavates and reimagines our histories; investigates, disrupts, validates and contextualises our societies and subjectivities; exercises our imaginations through flights of fancy, takes the reader on transformational adventures, and probes and presents our motivations, problems and dramas. What, then, does it mean to not see yourself reflected in your nation’s stories? This has been the ongoing debate of my professional career as a writer stretching back nearly forty years, and we black British women know, that if we don’t write ourselves into literature, no one else will”.

The Judges said, “A must-read about modern Britain and womanhood. This is an impressive, fierce novel about the lives of black British families, their struggles, pains, laughter, longings and loves. With a dazzling rhythm, Evaristo takes us on a journey of intergenerational stories, moving through different spaces and heritages: African, Caribbean, European. Her 12 main characters manifest the highs and lows of our social life. They are artists, bankers, teachers, cleaners, housewives, and are at various stages of womanhood, from adolescence to old age. Her style is passionate, razor-sharp, brimming with energy and humour. There is never a single moment of dullness in this book and the pace does not allow you to turn away from its momentum. The language wraps the reader by force, with the quality of oral traditions and poetry. This is a novel that deserves to be read aloud and to be performed and celebrated in all kinds of media.”

Girl, Woman, Other is published by Penguin Random House imprint Hamish Hamilton, making it the third time the prize has been won by that imprint. The other winners were: Sacred Hunger by Barry Unsworth in 1992, and The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai in 2006.


The winners were chosen by a panel of five judges: founder and director of Hay Festival Peter Florence (Chair); former fiction publisher and editor Liz Calder; novelist, essayist and filmmaker Xiaolu Guo; writer, broadcaster and former barrister Afua Hirsch; and concert pianist, conductor and composer Joanna MacGregor. The judges chose from 151 submitted books.

Atwood and Evaristo were announced by chair of judges, Peter Florence at a dinner at London’s Guildhall at a ceremony hosted by TV presenter and judge of the ‘The Lost Man Booker Prize,’ Katy Derham. Atwood was presented with a trophy by last year’s winner, Anna Burns, and a £50,000 cheque by chair of the judges, Peter Florence. She also received a designer bound edition of her book and a further £2,500 for being shortlisted. The book binding will be on display to the public, alongside the shortlist bound books, for two weeks from tomorrow at Bonhams Auction House, Montpelier Street, London SW7 1HH.

See all this year's shortlisted books here.