Booker selection a childhood dream for Irish hopeful

IRISH author Emma Donoghue said being one of six authors on the Man Booker Prize shortlist is a dream come true.

The writer was nominated for her novel Room – the tale of a five-year-old locked in an 11ft by 11ft space with his mother.

“I’m flabbergasted to get on to the shortlist. I thought the book might have been too populist,” she said.

“It’s absolutely fantastic, especially since this is a book with a tricky subject; many people are nervous about reading it. But people have to pluck up the nerve and then they realise that they are safe in my hands. It is a very dark place I lead you into, but I also lead you into the light.”

Donoghue, a mother of two who has lived in Canada for the last 12 years, said she felt she had no chance of claiming the coveted prize, but would enjoy being on the shortlist.

She added: “As a child I would literally lie awake imagining the Booker ceremony. I was a most unusual child in that way. This is the absolute peak of my career.”

She said she found the story easy to write and attributed some of the ease to the influence of her young son.

“It certainly helped that my son was five when I was drafting the book,” she said.

“I’d to concentrate very hard and imagine how a boy like my son would be different, which strengths would be brought out and how he would be different.”

Parallels have been drawn between Donoghue’s work and harrowing real-life house of horror cases, such as that of Josef Fritzl, who imprisoned his daughter in Austria. Donoghue flatly rejected suggestions the news stories heavily influenced her work.

“I’ve been very open that it was the Fritzl case that put it in my mind,” she said.

“But it was just a one-line notion. I did not base the book on any of those cases. I’m not interested in writing anyone’s true story.”

The Man Booker winner will be announced on October 12, and Donoghue is second favourite.

She was born in Dublin in 1969, studied at UCD, and later earned a PhD at the University of Cambridge. She is the author of seven novels, three short story collections, and four stage plays.

Donoghue won the Stonewall Book Award for her 1995 novel, Hood, and the Ferro-Grumey Award for Lesbian Fiction for her novel Slammerkin in 2000. She lives in London, Ontario, with her partner Chris Roulston and their two children. She wrote Room in a period of six months while staying in France.

Sarah Bannan, head of literature at the Arts Council, said Donoghue is a gifted writer dedicated to her art.

“In Room, Emma Donoghue has created a gripping and haunting work of fiction, one which stays with the reader long after the last page,” she said.

“The presence of an Irish writer on the Booker shortlist reflects the strength of contemporary Irish literature.”

The shortlist is: Parrot and Olivier in America (Peter Carey), In A Strange Room (Damon Galgut), The Long Song (Andrea Levy), The Finkler Question (Howard Jacobson), Room (Emma Donoghue) and C (Tom McCarthy).


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