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Booker prize: Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale sequel makes shortlist

The Guardian logo The Guardian 03/09/2019 Sian Cain
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - DECEMBER 03:  Margaret Atwood arrives at Equality Now's Annual Make Equality Reality Gala at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on December 3, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California.  (Photo by Amanda Edwards/WireImage) © Getty BEVERLY HILLS, CA - DECEMBER 03: Margaret Atwood arrives at Equality Now's Annual Make Equality Reality Gala at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on December 3, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Amanda Edwards/WireImage)

The Testaments, Margaret Atwood’s much-anticipated sequel to her feminist dystopia The Handmaid’s Tale, has landed her a place on the Booker prize shortlist – despite the fact that barely anyone has read it yet.

With little publicly known beyond that it is set more than 15 years after Atwood’s hero Offred escaped a theocratic future America, the plot of The Testaments remains under strict lock and key until its global release date on 10 September, with midnight launches and bookshop parties planned around the world.

This cover image released by Nan A. Talese shows "The Testaments," by Margaret Atwood. The novel will be released on Sept. 10. (Nan A. Talese  via AP) © Getty This cover image released by Nan A. Talese shows "The Testaments," by Margaret Atwood. The novel will be released on Sept. 10. (Nan A. Talese via AP)

Chair of judges and Hay festival director Peter Florence could not say more than describing it as a “savage and beautiful novel, and it speaks to us today, all around the world, with particular conviction and power.”

When the book was longlisted for the £50,000 prize in July, the judges would only say: “Spoiler discretion and a ferocious non-disclosure agreement prevent any description of who, how, why and even where. So this: it’s terrifying and exhilarating.”

Atwood is set to face off against another former winner: Salman Rushdie, who is nominated for Quichotte, a retelling of Cervantes’ Don Quixote set in modern day America. “If you are going to make a tilt at one of the greatest works of literature, you better hope you can play at Cervantes’ level,” Florence said, calling it “a hell of a ride.”

This cover image released by Random House shows "Quichotte" by Salman Rushdie. The novel will be released on Sept. 3. (Random House via AP) © Getty This cover image released by Random House shows "Quichotte" by Salman Rushdie. The novel will be released on Sept. 3. (Random House via AP)

The giant underdog of the shortlist is Lucy Ellmann’s Ducks, Newburyport, published by tiny, Norwich independent Galley Beggar Press. An 1,000-page monologue of an angst-ridden homemaker in Ohio, the British-American author’s book unfolds almost entirely in a single sentence spans love, loss and the state of the US.

Salman Rushdie has made the 2019 Booker shortlist © Getty Salman Rushdie has made the 2019 Booker shortlist

British novelist Bernadine Evaristo is nominated for Girl, Woman, Other. Following 12 characters, most of them black British women, some stories overlapping to make widely about the connections that can be made between disparate humans.

Related news: Beautiful libraries around the world to charm book lovers (Travel + Leisure) 

Nigerian novelist Chigozie Obioma makes the shortlist for his novel An Orchestra of Minorities. Narrated by a chi, a guardian spirit in Igbo myth, the novel follows Nonso, an ambitious Nigerian graduate who becomes trapped in Cyprus after falling for an education scam.

British author Bernadine Evaristo is on the Booker shortlist 2019 for her novel Girl, Woman, Other © Getty British author Bernadine Evaristo is on the Booker shortlist 2019 for her novel Girl, Woman, Other

Turkish novelist Elif Shafak is nominated for 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World. Described “audacious and dazzingly brilliant” by judge Liz Calder. Set in Istanbul, Shafak’s novel is set in the final moments – 10 minutes, 38 seconds – of a murdered sex worker’s life as her brain slowly shuts down.

The winner will be annouced on 14 October at a ceremony in London.

The 2019 Booker prize shortlist

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood (Vintage, Chatto & Windus)

Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann (Galley Beggar Press)

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo (Hamish Hamilton),

An Orchestra of Minorities by Chigozie Obioma (Little Brown)

Quichotte by Salman Rushdie (Jonathan Cape)

10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World by Elif Shafak (Viking)

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