Posts Tagged ‘Emma Donoghue’

The author Emma Donoghue

Emma Donoghue is the author of 10 novels, including the bestselling Slammerkin (2000). Her latest novel, Room, has been longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. She was born in Dublin in 1969, and has been writing books since the age of 23. She lives in Canada with her partner and their two children.

Room was inspired by the Fritzl story and tells the story of Jack and Ma, who are trapped in the room of the title. You can read Emma’s Anti-Room questionnaire here.

Rosita Boland

I did not want to read Room. The subject matter is so disturbing. Even as I write now, I’m utterly certain there are as-yet-undiscovered children and women locked up in the way Ma is in Room. Knowing that makes me feel helpless, despairing and ferocious. It did not make me want to read about that world, especially a fictionalised one.

Yet, there it was on my desk, sent in the post. A fortnight later, I eventually opened it. Read a few pages. Gripped. Took it home and read the rest of the book that night.

For me, Room works because it draws you so fluently and convincingly into Jack’s world-within-a-world. It’s his perspective that makes telling this story possible. Lots of showing, not telling. What should be ghastly is funny. The focus of the novel lets in the air that Ma and Jack could never get: the reader can breathe. It’s as much about a beautiful portrait of the relationship of a child with its mother as it is about the circumstances of them being there.


The one part that did not convince me was the ease of Jack’s escape. I don’t believe it. How bizarre – that it’s easier for me as a reader to believe completely in their dreadful hermetic world than the fact that they escape from it in the way they do.


Catherine Brodigan

Jack, the five-year-old narrator of Room, is, like most five-year-olds, bright, chatty, imaginative and eagle-eyed. It’s this innocent and unflinching eye for detail that makes his account of life within the eleven-foot by eleven-foot room in which he and his Ma are held captive all the more gut-wrenching. For Jack, sleeping in Wardrobe is nothing out of the ordinary, and playing Scream under Room’s skylight is simply part of the weekday rota of games Ma tirelessly invents to keep him occupied. So when Ma reveals that the world outside is not just “in TV”, and asks for Jack’s help in plotting their escape from Room, Jack’s life is changed utterly, and yet he will do whatever she asks of him.

Emma Donoghue has written a brave book full of fierce and unwavering love, a book which manages to both unsettle and inspire, even weeks after reading. It’s thoroughly deserving of a place on the Booker shortlist.

Anna Carey

There was a point, half way through Room, when I would have actually fought anyone who tried to take the book out of my grip. I was walking around with the hardback in my hand, and didn’t stop reading while I made my dinner. Emma Donoghue has already proven herself to be a skilled storyteller, but Room is her boldest book yet. Telling the story in the voice of a child, especially one who has spent his entire life captive in a tiny shed (even if he doesn’t realise he’s a captive) is a huge risk, and against all the odds, Donoghue pulls it off. Jack is that rare thing, a convincing young child narrator, and the gulf between his general happiness and the reader’s awareness of his and his Ma’s horrific situation adds to the novel’s power. I was slightly surprised by the incredibly gushing blurb quotations from writers such as John Boyne and Michael Cunningham  – Room is a gripping, powerful novel, but I didn’t think it was a life changer. Maybe they live in a sole diet of very serious literary fiction and don’t realise that compulsive readability is quite common in other genres.  But it’s an unputdownable thriller and a deeply moving story of family love told in a unique and convincing voice, and that’s more than enough.

Megan McGurk

After I saw the bulletin announcing Emma Donoghue’s  plan to write Room last autumn, it was clear that I’d read the novel, which would not have been the case if it had been  authored by almost anyone else.  Donoghue’s gift for weaving stories from news snippets was established with The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits.  There was no concern over encounters of ghastly descriptions about sexual assault as with the Stieg Larsson trilogy, or other popular books that deal with victimised women and children.  Room bypasses the horror for an emphasis on the love Ma has for her son Jack and their heroic efforts to cope and survive Old Nick’s brutality.  Some days, Ma keeps to the bed in a crippling fit of despair and depression.  Jack refers to those days as ‘one of the days when Ma is Gone.’  The five year-old takes the opportunity to watch an unlimited amount of television while his mother remains overwhelmed.  This is one of many examples Donoghue crafts in order to underscore the difference in perspective between mother and son.  The real wonder is how Ma finds the courage to rise from the bed and keep them both alive.

Donoghue’s novel is a flawless achievement.  Readers can only pause over how many more women and children are being held in captivity.

Room is out now, published by Picador

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Emma Donoghue is the author of 10 novels, including the bestselling Slammerkin (2000) including her latest, Room, which has been longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. She was born in Dublin in 1969, and has been writing books since the age of 23. She moved to Canada in 1998, where she lives with her partner, Chris Roulston, a women’s studies professor, and their two children, Finn (6) and Una (3).

Room was inspired by the Fritzl story and tells the story of Jack and Ma, who are trapped in the room of the title.

Have you ever had a nickname?

Occasionally ‘Emsie’ within the family, but it never stuck.

What’s the first record you ever bought?

A cassette of Fame (to my shame, the tv series, not even the film)

What’s your favourite smell?


What is your favourite room in your house?

Our bedroom – peaceful, white walls, no toys, prospects of books or sleep…

Who was your first kiss and where did it happen?

Miss she’d-kill-me-if-I-named-her, somewhere in Ireland, 1986.

Who was your first love?

A different Miss she’d-kill-me-if-I-named-her.

What are your guilty pleasures?

Too much chocolate. And more-ish TV such as 24 or The L Word.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

Perhaps my extremely flawed table manners.

Who is you closest female friend?

My partner Chris.  (It’s a multi-tasking position.)

Do you have any tattoos or piercings?

I pierced my ears late, when pregnant for the first time at 33, but I rarely use them.  I’d never consider any further modification: I believe in sticking with the body you’ve got.

Where would you most like to live?

Right now, the place I’m on holiday (and know well), the Port Vendres area in Southern France.

What’s the most unusual question you’ve ever been asked?

I’ve clearly blanked it from my mind in shock.

What’s the best Christmas present you’ve ever received?

Our son Finn came five weeks early, but he was meant to be a Christmas baby rather than a November one, so he’s what stands out.

What is your favourite word?

At this moment, the  vegetable we’re having for dinner: samphire.

If you weren’t doing what you do, what might you have become?

A tragedy.  (I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t write.)

Is there a book you’ve bought several times as a gift for someone?

Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials.

What happens after we die?

This may sound childish, but: we go to heaven.

What female historical figure do you admire most?

The one who inspired several of my early works: the outrageous, snobbish, quarrelsome Regency diarist Anne Lister.

Sum yourself up in three words:

Impossible, I’m too fond of words to stick to three.

Finally… What are you anti? What are you pro?

Anti-journalists-who-distort-and-misquote.  Pro-oysters.

Room is out now, published by Picador

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Later today (update: scroll down for longlist) the longlist for the 2010 Man Booker Prize will be announced. The initial longlist of 13 books should result in a slight bump in sales, but then apparently TV Book clubs sell more books than a Man Booker nomination. In the run up the longlist announcement, speculation has been frantic and broad-ranging, but what was most interesting about this year, was a discussion that book place on Twitter last week. Guardian Books Editor Claire Armitstead (@carmitstead) asked her followers to take a punt on who they expected to see nominated. A large chunk of the replies suggested were books by male authors, which prompted this tweet from book blogger Rachael Beale (aka @FlossieTeacake): “Oh God, please not an all-male longlist… I might cry.” With novels like The Long Song by Andrea Levy, Miss Thing by Nora Chassler, The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell, The Golden Mean by Annabel Lyon, Burley Cross by Nicola Barker, The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna, Room by Emma Donoghue, Ruby’s Spoon by Anna Lawrence Pietroni and The News Where You Are by Catherine O’Flynn eligible, does that discussion imply that the standard of books by women written in the last year wasn’t very hight? It’s certainly true of some very big name writers (and past winners, who happen to be men), like Ian McEwan, Martin Amis and Yann Martel who have all published below-par novels this year.

There’s a randomness to predicting most arts prizes, but I think we might see Jon McGregor, Tom McCarthy, Paul Murray, Andrea Levy, Joe O’Connor, Christos Tsiolkas and David Mitchell on there. Possible Irish contenders include O’Connor, Hugo Hamilton, Emma Donoghue and Paul Murray.

Where having is concerned, my outright bet would be on David Mitchell’s Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. But there’s always the cautionary tale of Joseph O’Neill. Two years ago, William Hill stopped taking bets at the longlist stage on Netherland being the overall winner and the book failed to make the shortlist. Ah yes, Julian Barnes you wily old fox, it IS “posh bingo”.

What have you read and what are you think should be on the longlist? What would you love/hate to see on there?

Update: Here’s the 2010 longlist. Congrats to all the nominees

Peter Carey Parrot and Olivier in America (Faber and Faber)

Emma Donoghue Room (Pan MacMillan – Picador)

Helen Dunmore The Betrayal (Penguin – Fig Tree)

Damon Galgut In a Strange Room (Grove Atlantic – Atlantic Books)

Howard Jacobson The Finkler Question (Bloomsbury)

Andrea Levy The Long Song
(Headline Publishing Group – Headline Review)

Tom McCarthy C (Random House – Jonathan Cape)

David Mitchell The Thousand Autumns of Zacob de Zoet (Hodder & Stoughton – Sceptre)

Lisa Moore February (Random House – Chatto & Windus)

Paul Murray Skippy Dies (Penguin – Hamish Hamilton)

Rose Tremain Trespass (Random House – Chatto & Windus)

Christos Tsiolkas The Slap (Grove Atlantic – Tuskar Rock)

Alan Warner The Stars in the Bright Sky
(Random House – Jonathan Cape)

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