'Room' wins major book award


Emma Donoghue's much-acclaimed novel Room, inspired by the Josef Fritzl case, has won the prestigious Hughes & Hughes Novel of the Year Award.

Following her near miss in the Man Booker Prize, the Dublin-born writer’s dark tale about a boy who lives with his mother in a locked room received the top accolade at the Irish Book Awards last night.

The book was chosen by public vote from a strong shortlist that also included Colm Tóibín’s Brooklyn, Joseph O’Connor’s Ghost Light and Colum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin, winner of last year’s US National Book Award.

At a prize-giving dinner in Dublin’s Mansion House, the author, who now lives in Canada, said she believed the book touched on the universal theme of a young person discovering there was more to life than the confines of their own little world.

Perhaps surprisingly, given the glut of titles exploring the country’s economic woes, Neil Richardson’s book on the Irishmen who fought in the first World War, A Coward if I Return, a Hero if I Fall, took top prize in the non-fiction category.

Johnny Giles’s autobiography, A Football Man, chronicling his time with some of England’s biggest soccer clubs won the Energise Sport Irish Sports Book of the Year.

Romantic fiction writer Maeve Binchy was honoured with a lifetime achievement award for her contribution to Irish literature.

The Dalkey author, who is best known for her 1990 novel Circle of Friends, has sold more than 40 million books since her publishing debut in the 1980s.

Receiving the award last night, she said: “An award like this ’in front of your own’ is very special.

“I never thought of myself as a person who would get an award. I’m just a storyteller.”

The tragic effects of the State’s economic implosion did find its way into the prizes in the form of Ross O’Carroll Kelly’s The Oh My God Delusion which took top honours in the popular fiction category, eclipsing the latest offerings from Sheila O'Flanagan, Sinéad Moriarty and Cathy Kelly.

Another book which salutes the end of the boom years but in a rather different tone was journalist Gene Kerrigan’s crime narrative Dark Times in the City, which triumphed in the crime fiction category.

The Best Newcomer of the Year Award went to RTÉ broadcaster Ryan Tubridy’s JFK in Ireland: Four Days that Changed a President.

Cork hurler Donal Óg Cusack’s frank autobiography Come What May, ghostwritten by Irish Times sports writer Tom Humphries, won the RTÉ Radio 1’s The John Murray Show Listeners’ Choice Award.

In the best children’s book junior category, Niamh Sharkey’s On the Road with Mavis and Marge took the top prize, while in the senior category Derek Landy’s popular Skulduggery Pleasant: Mortal Coil won.

Speaking at the event, President Mary McAleese spoke of the grave economic crisis facing Ireland and urged people not to lose faith in the country.

“Let no-one claim that Ireland is anything less than a great country. Our people are entitled to be defined by much more than this period of economic turmoil,” she said.

This is the fifth year of the Irish book trade awards.