Who are the joint Booker Prize winners?

Margaret Atwood (L) and Bernardine Evaristo with their 2019 Booker Prize-winning books.
Margaret Atwood (L) and Bernardine Evaristo with their 2019 Booker Prize-winning books.

In a shock decision, the Booker Prize has been split between two authors: Canadian Margaret Attwood, and British author Bernardine Evaristo, the first black woman to win.

The prestigious award comes with a STG50,000 ($AU92,800) prize, as well as literary acclaim, and often a sales boost for the winner.

Atwood has already achieved these soaring heights, having previously won the award in 2000, while fellow award-winner Evaristo is a first-time recipient.

Atwood was born in Ottawa in Canada and began writing as a child.

At 79, she is now the oldest ever Booker winner, and her career proper began in the early 1960s with poetry collections. She also began writing novels, and a prolific output lasting decades has continued since.

While teaching in Toronto, she continued to write - and in the mid 1980s published critical hits Bodily Harm and The Handmaid's Tale, which was nominated for the Booker in 1986.

She first won the prestigious award for her novel The Blind Assassin.

Atwood reached an even larger international audience when The Handmaid's Tale was adapted for the 2017 TV series, providing visual cues for numerous protest movements which referenced the show.

The author has penned more than 40 works, and even dabbled in comic books.

Fellow winner Evaristo, 60, was born in Woolwich, south London, holds a PhD from Goldsmiths, University of London, and continues to reside in the capital.

She has written eight works, and produced poetry, verse fiction, literary criticism and essays.

Of Anglo-Nigerian descent, she has shed light on the lives of modern British women, taking an interest in the African diaspora.

Several of her works, including The Emperor's Babe and Hello Mum, have been adapted into BBC Radio 4 plays.

Booker Prize chairman Peter Florence said the five judges simply couldn't choose between Atwood's dystopian thriller and Evaristo's kaleidoscope of black women's stories.

Gaby Wood, literary director of the Booker Prize Foundation, said prize trustees repeatedly told the judges they couldn't have two winners, but they "essentially staged a sit-in in the judging room" as deliberations dragged on for five hours.

Australian Associated Press