Donoghue scoops top award as Binchy is honoured
'Room', the bestselling novel by Emma Donoghue which was pipped at the post for the Man Booker Prize last month, has taken the Novel of the Year prize at the Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Awards 2010.
The gala awards ceremony at the Mansion House in Dublin last night also saw Maeve Binchy presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award by President Mary McAleese.
Binchy, who is one of the bestselling Irish writers of all time, turned 70 this year.
Commenting on her infectious optimism, Mrs McAleese said that Binchy was someone for whom the glass was always half-full rather than half-empty.
"Occasionally in life you meet a person who has the capacity to make you smile and feel good no matter what the mood. If the world is divided into radiators and drains, this lady is one of life's most natural radiators of all that is best in the human condition," she said.
Emma Donoghue's winning novel was inspired by the case of Josef Fritzl who locked his daughter in the basement for 24 years, raped her and had children with her. 'Room', which was bought by publishers in Britain and the US last year for more than €1m after a bidding war, has been in the bestseller lists for the past three months.
It tells the story of a boy and his mother who are held captive in a windowless one-room garden shed.
The five-year-old boy thinks the locked room he lives in is the whole world because his mother has never told him about the outside. At night the boy hides in the wardrobe when Old Nick brings food and then makes the bed creak with his mother.
Despite the grim subject, the book is ultimately uplifting and the boy and his mother eventually escape.
"I was driving along when 'Room' came to me in a flash," Donoghue says. "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."
Originally from Dublin, but now living in Canada with her partner and two children, Donoghue is best known for her historical novel 'Slammerkin', a murder story set in 18th Century London.
Donoghue's win is all the sweeter because the shortlist for the Novel of the Year Award this year was particularly strong. It included bestselling novels by: Colm Toibin; Colum McCann; Roddy Doyle; Joseph O'Connor; and newcomer Paul Murray, who was also shortlisted for the Booker.
With almost 30,000 public votes cast to decide the outcome, the winners are a genuine reflection of what Irish people are reading and enjoying.
Winners in the other categories included: Ryan Tubridy; Johnny Giles; Paul Howard (aka Ross O'Carroll Kelly); and Gene Kerrigan.
The gala awards dinner ceremony was hosted by Sinead Desmond and John Murray, with over 50 Irish authors and many more from the publishing industry and the media celebrating the best of Irish literature from the past year.
Cecelia Ahern, Cathy Kelly and Amy Huberman (accompanied by her husband Irish rugby captain Brian O'Driscoll) were also there as was 'Boy in the Striped Pyjamas' author John Boyne, broadcasters Joe Duffy and Matt Cooper, senator Shane Ross and hurler Donal Og Cusack.