The Booker Prize judges broke with the award’s firm policy and jointly conferred this year’s award on two novels: The Testaments by Margaret Atwood and Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo. Evaristo is the first black woman to win the prize, and at 79 Atwood is the oldest winner. (Atwood won the award in 2000 for The Blind Assassin.) “We’ve both got curly hair,” Atwood said in receiving the prize, indicated she was surprised, thinking she was “too elderly, and I don’t really need the attention. It would have been embarrassing if I was alone here,” she said to Evaristo. Grove/Atlantic bought rights to Evaristo’s novel earlier this summer after it was longlisted and currently has it scheduled for December publication in trade paperback from their Black Cat imprint.
On reaching the unusual decision, chair of the judges Peter Florence said, “We tried voting; it didn’t work.” In the end, “We found that there were two novels that we desperately wanted to win this year’s prize, so we’re awarding the prize jointly to both of them.” The Booker had established a firm policy after a joint award in 1992 indicating that the prize “may not be divided or withheld.” Literary director Gaby Wood notes that other juries have wanted to split the award and were denied, and she told the judges multiple times they could not declare two winners. Florence said, “We were told quite firmly that the rules state we can only have one winner. Our consensus was that it was our decision to flout the rules and divide this year’s prize to celebrate two winners.”