Tuesday 6 December 2016

Booker joy for Irish author

John Spain Books Editor

Published 08/09/2010 | 05:00

Author Emma Donoghue pictured at her home in Ontario, Canada
Author Emma Donoghue pictured at her home in Ontario, Canada

AUTHOR Emma Donoghue spoke of her delight yesterday after her novel 'Room', inspired by the horrific Josef Fritzl case, was named on the shortlist for the prestigious Booker Prize in 2010.

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"I'm excira and delira, as they say, to find myself on the Booker shortlist and in such honourable company," Ms Donoghue said from her home in Canada, where she woke up to the good news.

Bookmaker Ladbrokes installed Ms Donoghue's book as 9-4 favourite to win the prize.

"It's a dream come true, the absolute peak of my career," Ms Donoghue said.

Six authors have been shortlisted, including British writers Howard Jacobson for 'The Finkler Question', Andrea Levy for 'The Long Song' and Tom McCarthy for 'C'.

Australian Peter Carey, who has already won the award twice, is up for 'Parrot And Olivier In America', while South African Damon Galgut's 'In A Strange Room' completes the six shortlisted books.

The winner of the Man Booker receives £50,000 (€60,0000) -- but the real prize comes in greatly increased sales and worldwide recognition. Each of the six shortlisted authors can look forward to a significant boost in sales.

Ms Donoghue has already hit the jackpot with her book, which was sold to publishers in Britain and the US last year for more than €1m after a bidding war and has been in the bestseller lists for the past two months.

The novel was directly inspired by Austrian Josef Fritzl who locked his daughter in the basement for 24 years, raped her and had children with her. Some of the children never saw sunlight until their release as teenagers.

Captive

Ms Donoghue's novel is also like the Jaycee Dugard case in California. 'Room' is about a boy and his mother who are held captive in a one-room garden shed. The story is told in the voice of five-year-old Jack who thinks the locked room he lives in is the whole world. He was born there and his mother has never told him about the outside.

Although Ms Donoghue had written most of 'Room' before Jaycee Dugard was discovered in August 2009, the parallels between that case and the novel are striking. Jaycee was abducted at age 11 and held for 18 years in a garden shed in a town near San Francisco, during which time she had two children.

In spite of the similarity, Ms Donoghue says she had already been working on the novel for months before the Dugard story broke.

"'Room' was first inspired by the Fritzl case in 2008," she says. "I was driving along when 'Room' came to me in a flash. I realised that if such a story were told from the child's point of view, it would not be a horror or sob story, but a journey from one world to another."

In the novel, Jack lives with his Ma in the 11ft by 11ft room. Old Nick, who provides food, calls usually when Jack is in his bed in the wardrobe.

By day, Jack watches TV, but he knows that nothing he sees on screen is truly real, until his fifth birthday, when Ma starts to admit that there is a world outside.

Originally from Dublin but living in Ontario, Canada, Ms Donoghue is the daughter of the celebrated professor of English at UCD, Denis Donoghue, who now teaches in New York.

She studied English at UCD and Cambridge, where she met her partner, the Canadian academic Christine Roulston. The couple live in Ontario with their children Finn and Una.

The other Irish writer on the longlist was Paul Murray for his novel 'Skippy Dies' -- but he did not make the shortlist.

Irish Independent

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