Sequel to Handmaid’s Tale in running for top book award

Margaret Atwood's novel The Testaments, the highly anticipated sequel to The Handmaid's Tale, in the running for the Booker Prize, Britain's most prestigious literary award.

"A ferocious nondisclosure agreement" prevented the prize's judges revealing any of the book's plot, they said in a joint statement announcing the list of 13 competitors. But the novel is "terrifying and exhilarating," they added.

An unprecedented level of secrecy surrounds Margaret Atwood’s sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale.Credit:Reuters

Atwood, whose novel The Blind Assassin won the Booker Prize in 2000, faces strong competition for the award. Other nominated books include Salman Rushdie's forthcoming Quichotte, about a traveling salesman who drives across the United States, and 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World by Elif Shafak, about a prostitute in Istanbul.

Little is known about The Testaments, except that it is set 15 years after The Handmaid's Tale and is narrated by three female characters. Last year, Atwood said that she wanted The Testaments to explore parallels between her imaginary dystopia and the current political climate.

The list of nominees is dominated by novels inspired by political crises, such as John Lanchester's The Wall, set on an island surrounded by a concrete barrier to keep rising seas and immigrants out. Mexican author Valeria Luiselli's Lost Children Archive, about child migrants, has also made the cut.

The nominated books "imagine our world, familiar from news cycle disaster and grievance, with wild humour, deep insight and a keen humanity", said Peter Florence, the chair of the judges, in a statement.

Other books on the list are less political, such as Oyinkan Braithwaite's comic thriller, My Sister, The Serial Killer.

The nominees will be narrowed down to a shortlist of six that will be revealed on September 3. The winner will be announced on October 14.

The nominees in full are:

  • Margaret Atwood, The Testaments
  • Kevin Barry, Night Boat to Tangier
  • Oyinkan Braithwaite, My Sister, The Serial Killer
  • Lucy Ellmann, Ducks, Newburyport
  • Bernardine Evaristo, Girl, Woman, Other
  • John Lanchester, The Wall
  • Deborah Levy, The Man Who Saw Everything
  • Valeria Luiselli, Lost Children Archive
  • Chigozie Obioma, An Orchestra of Minorities
  • Max Porter, Lanny
  • Salman Rushdie, Quichotte
  • Elif Shafak, 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World
  • Jeanette Winterson, Frankissstein

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