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Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale sequel longlisted for Booker, alongside Biblioasis’s Ducks, Newburyport

(Shannon Ross)

Margaret Atwood’s forthcoming novel, The Testaments, has been longlisted for the £50,000 Booker Prize, though readers around the world will have to wait patiently until Sept. 10 to find out what happens to Gilead.

In a statement about the heavily embargoed book, which is set 15 years after the end of The Handmaid’s Tale, jury chair Peter Florence said, “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.”

The 13-title list was selected from 151 novels published in the U.K. or Ireland between Oct. 1, 2018 and Sept. 30, 2019. In addition to the forthcoming The Testaments, eager Canadian readers will have to wait for at least four other titles that have not yet been released here, including Lucy Ellmann’s stream-of-consciousness novel Ducks, Newburyport, which is published in North America by Windsor, Ontario, indie press Biblioasis. Of the 13 titles, nine are published domestically by Penguin Random House Canada. Two novels on the list – Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other and Elif Shafak’s 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World, both of which feature protagonists who are women of colour – currently do not have Canadian distribution.

The Testaments’ appearance on the Booker provokes speculation as to whether Canadians will see the book show up on the Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist, to be announced Sept. 3. Books published up to Sept. 30 are eligible this year for the prize, though they must be submitted before Aug. 15. In 2013, Atwood withdrew her novel Maddaddam from consideration to serve on the Giller jury on its 20th anniversary year.

Giller executive director Elana Rabinovitch won’t reveal any of the titles that have been submitted, saying in an email that “We don’t divulge the titles that publishers submit, primarily to avoid anguishing publishers (and authors on/not on the list) further about the choices they have to make.” (Publishers that have previously not been shortlisted or longlisted for the prize may submit one title per imprint for Giller consideration; formerly listed publishers may submit two.)

This year’s Booker longlist was selected by a jury comprised of Florence, who is founder and director of the Hay Festival; former publisher and editor Liz Calder (who counts Atwood and Michael Ondaatje among her authors); author and filmmaker Xiaolu; writer and broadcaster Afua Hirsch; and pianist and conductor Joanna MacGregor.

The longlisted titles with their Canadian publishers are:

  • Margaret Atwood, The Testaments (McClelland & Stewart)
  • Kevin Barry, Night Boat to Tangier (Knopf Canada)
  • Oyinkan Braithwaite, My Sister, The Serial Killer (Doubleday)
  • Lucy Ellmann, Ducks, Newburyport (Biblioasis)
  • Bernardine Evaristo, Girl, Woman, Other (*no Canadian publisher)
  • John Lanchester, The Wall (WW Norton/PRHC)
  • Deborah Levy, The Man Who Saw Everything (Hamish Hamilton Canada)
  • Valeria Luiselli, Lost Children Archive (Knopf)
  • Chigozie Obioma, An Orchestra of Minorities (Little, Brown and Company/Hachette Book Group Canada)
  • Max Porter, Lanny (Strange Light/PRHC)
  • Salman Rushdie, Quichotte (Knopf Canada)
  • Elif Shafak, 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World (*no Canadian publisher)
  • Jeanette Winterson, Frankissstein: A Love Story (Knopf Canada)

The shortlist will be announced Sept. 3, with the winner revealed on Oct. 14.