Monday 16 December 2019

Donoghue pipped at the post for Booker

Writer Emma Donoghue. Photo: Tony Gavin
Writer Emma Donoghue. Photo: Tony Gavin

John Spain Books Editor

'Room', the bestselling novel by Irish writer Emma Donoghue, which was one of the hot favourites for the Man Booker Prize this year, has been pipped at the post.

The winner of the Man Booker 2010, announced in London last night, was 'The Finkler Question' by British writer Howard Jacobsen.

Jacobsen, one of the older authors on the shortlist, is a well-known academic, critic and newspaper columnist. He has been longlisted twice before for the Booker.

'The Finkler Question' is a sophisticated contemporary novel about love, loss, male friendship and being Jewish. Jacobsen's writing has been described as the wittiest and most sharply intelligent prose in English today.

American writer Jonathan Safran Foer, author of the bestseller 'Everything is Illuminated', says Jacobsen is "a great, great writer." British novelist Alison Pearson calls him "our funniest living writer".

In spite of his reputation, however, Jacobsen has never hit the big time and none of his 10 novels has made a splash in Ireland. 'The Finkler Question' is likely to change all that. The story begins with a man being mugged near the BBC in London late one night and the book goes on to deal with the BBC, Israel and Gaza, although it is really the human relationships that matter.

Although Jacobsen is a worthy winner, the result will be a disappointment for the Irish shortlisted writer Donoghue, who was one of the favourites in the betting.

There will be some consolation for Donoghue, however, because her book 'Room' -- which was inspired by the horrific Josef Fritzl case -- has become a runaway bestseller, holding the number one position in the bestseller list in Ireland for several weeks. It has also been selling strongly in Britain, where it has outsold all the other Booker shortlisted novels in recent weeks.

Over the past few weeks in the UK it has sold three times as many copies as Howard Jacobsen's book.

Donoghue, who now lives in Canada, interrupted a tour of the US, where she is promoting her book, to be in London last night for the Booker prize dinner.


The winner of the Man Booker receives £50,000 (€56,700) but the real prize comes in greatly increased sales and worldwide recognition.

Jacobsen's book is now likely to become a bestseller. But it has some catching up to do on Emma Donoghue's book 'Room'.

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

'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 to protect him his mother has never told him about the outside.

Irish Independent

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