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Sunday, Nov 17, 2019

Margaret Atwood is one of this year’s Booker Prize winner. Here are her top 5 books you must read

Canadian author Margaret Atwood and British author Bernardine Evaristo were awarded the Booker Prize for Fiction 2019 last night in London. Read on for Atwood’s five most-loved novels you must read.

books Updated: Oct 15, 2019 14:19 IST
Saumya Sharma
Saumya Sharma
Hindustan Times, Delhi
Author Margaret Atwood reads an extract during the launch of her new novel The Testaments at a book store in London, Britain late September 9, 2019. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez
Author Margaret Atwood reads an extract during the launch of her new novel The Testaments at a book store in London, Britain late September 9, 2019. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez(REUTERS)

Canadian author Margaret Atwood and British author Bernardine Evaristo were awarded the Booker Prize for Fiction 2019 last night in London after the judging panel decided to change the rules and name two winners instead of the standard one for the prestigious fiction trophy.

Atwood was born in Ottawa on November 18, 1939, to a forest entomologist and a nutritionist. She published her first novel titled The Edible Woman in 1969, a satire about a young woman unable to eat after getting married. This was followed by the hugely successful The Handmaid’s Tale in 1985, which became a feminist classic, about a totalitarian society of the future. It has been adapted into a film, a cult television series and an opera. Her third novel Alias Grace came out in 1996 and has also been adapted for the screen. The turn of the millennium (year 2000) saw the release of her fourth novel titled The Blind Assassin which also got her her first Booker Prize. The sequel to Atwood’s 1985 novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Testaments was published in September this year, fetching the author her second Booker Prize, a top literary honour.

ALSO READ: It’s a tie: Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo share Booker Prize for Fiction

The celebrated author shares her award with Anglo-Nigerian author Bernardine Evaristo whose book, Girl, Woman, Other follows the lives and strife of twelve contrasting characters from different walks of life. Mostly women, black and British, the characters tell the stories of their families, friends and lovers, through the years.


Here are five most-loved novels by Margaret Atwood, listed in ascending order:

A Handmaid’s Tale (1985): Atwood’s most famous novel, revived more than three decades after its release with an award-winning television series, takes place in the chilling dystopia of Gilead, a patriarchal state in which women have no rights.

By turns witty and horrifying, the story follows a handmaid called Offred, one of Gilead’s few remaining fertile women who are forced into sexual servitude in a desperate attempt to repopulate the climate-ravaged world.

Atwood said she drew on real-world events for her disturbing tale. “It’s not me who made this stuff up. The human race made it up, unfortunately,” she told The Hollywood Reporter in 2019.

The story, in particular, struck a chord with the #MeToo movement and groups opposed to US President Donald Trump, protesters adorning the austere hooded outfits imposed on the handmaids as symbols of female subordination.

ALSO READ: #MeToo personal for ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ costume designer

Alias Grace (1996): This tome of historical fiction tells the story of real-life Grace Marks, an Irish-Canadian maid who was imprisoned for a brutal double murder in 1843.

It evokes all the murky ambiguity surrounding the case in which Marks was pardoned after serving nearly three decades of a life sentence for the killing of her employer and his pregnant housekeeper.

“Arguably, the book’s great strength lies in its elegant and evocative descriptions of the domestic activities that once commanded the full attention of women from the less privileged classes,” a 1996 review in The New York Times said.

In 2017 it was adapted into a Netflix mini-series with a screenplay by Canadian Oscar-nominated director Sarah Polley.

The Blind Assassin (2000): This novel, for which Atwood won Britain’s prestigious Booker Prize, mixes gothic horror, sci-fi and suspense while tracing generations of a family haunted by a mysterious death of one of its members in 1945.

Telling the story from the perspective of novelist Iris, sister of the woman who dies, Atwood adds an extra layer of intrigue by creating a novel-within-a-novel.

“Far-reaching, dramatic and structurally superb, it demonstrates Atwood’s immense emotional range, as well as her poet’s eye for both telling detail and psychological truth,” said Booker chairman Simon Jenkins.

MaddAddam (2013): Showcasing Atwood’s penchant for dystopias and her gift as a writer of science-fiction, or “speculative fiction” as she preferred to call it, this novel is the last of a trio set in a bioengineered future.

Starting in 2003 with Oryx and Crake and followed in 2009 by The Year of the Flood, the trilogy offers a philosophical and imaginative look at the consequences of scientific experimentation gone wrong.

Part of “Atwood’s mastery is to use herself as a creative computer, modelling possible futures projected from the available data - in human terms, where we are now,” British author Jeanette Winterson wrote in a review in 2009.

The Testaments’ (2019): Atwood’s highly anticipated sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale was inspired by readers’ questions about the original novel as well as social and political developments since.

The build-up around its release was “more reminiscent of the unveiling of an iPhone or something Pokemon-related than that of a mere book,” The Guardian newspaper wrote.

It is set more than 15 years after the events in The Handmaid’s Tale, with the state of Gilead still in place but showing signs of decline, and follows the lives of three women who all appeared in the 1985 original.

The book was nominated for the Booker Prize before it even hit the shelves.

With inputs from AFP

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