Two Irish contenders for Booker prize
A BOOK by an Irish novelist which mirrors the horrific Josef Fritzl abuse case has made the Booker Prize longlist for 2010.
'Room', by Emma Donoghue, is one of two books by Irish writers to make this year's list. The second is 'Skippy Dies', a comic novel by Paul Murray.
Due for publication next week, 'Room' was sold to publishers in Britain and the US for over €1m after a bidding war.
The novel was directly inspired by the Fritzl case in Austria. Fritzl locked his daughter in the basement of his home for 24 years, raped her and had children with her, some of whom never saw sunlight until their release.
In Ms Donoghue's novel, a boy and his mother are held captive in a one-room garden building, similar to the Jaycee Dugard case in California. 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.
Originally from Dublin but now living in Canada, Donoghue is best known for her historical novel 'Slammerkin', a murder story about a prostitute in 18th Century London. She was born in Dublin in 1969, the daughter of the Professor of English at UCD, Denis Donoghue, who now teaches in New York.
Dubliner Paul Murray's second novel 'Skippy Dies' is a tragic comedy about a couple of boys in a Dublin boarding school.
One is an overweight genius whose hobbies include very difficult maths and the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence, while his roommate falls for the frisbee-playing siren from the girls' school next door. Published earlier this year, the book has won huge praise from the critics here and in the UK.
Speaking last night, Murray said he was "really pleased" to be on the list of 13 books.
"This is a different kind of longlist with a lot of new writers like myself on it, with some of the big names losing out. So it's really good to be part of a list like that.
"The list is also very impressive so it's great for me to be in that company."
The novel's humorous take on contemporary Ireland may have been what won the judges over, Mr Murray added.
"It's got some pretty good jokes in it. Also I tried to mix up the register so it has darker moments as well.
"It's about teenage boys in contemporary Ireland so it's a way for me to paint a picture of the country at the moment, both good and bad."
However, there was some surprise that Joseph O'Connor's 'Ghost Light', tipped recently even as an overall winner, did not make the longlist.