The Washington Post

Novelist Emma Donoghue honored by Irish ambassador in Washington

Irish novelist Emma Donoghue was the guest of honor at an elegant luncheon at the residence of the Irish ambassador Monday afternoon. The author of “Room” was in Washington for a sold-out PEN/Faulkner reading with Chris Adrian at the Folger Library.

In his introductory remarks, Ambassador Michael Collins noted that “Room” had just been nominated for the International IMPAC Dublin Award, to be given on June 13. The best-selling novel, about a young woman and her son kept imprisoned for years in a garden shed, was previously shortlisted for the Booker Prize and has been translated into dozens of languages.

Emma Donoghue and Irish Ambassador Michael Collins (Washington Post/Ron Charles)

Collins recalled that Donoghue’s father, the literary critic and English scholar Denis Donoghue, had been a guest at a similar luncheon at the ambassador’s residence two years ago. “So this,” he said, “is our first father-daughter pair.”

Donoghue, who has been a resident of Canada for many years, is living temporarily in Nice, France, with her partner and two young sons. But she continues to travel widely. She said she’s doing research for a new novel set in San Francisco, and she’s working on a play in Dublin about the 1950s New Yorker writer Maeve Brennan.

She’s currently reading “The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher,” Kate Summerscale’s nonfiction account subtitled, “A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective.” “I miss really good murders,” Donoghue said with her typically wry wit.

Attending the luncheon were members of the embassy staff and PEN/Faulkner board members, including the organization’s chair, novelist Susan Richards Shreve, and the newest board member, New Yorker writer Margaret Talbot.

Ron Charles is the editor of The Washington Post's Book World. For a dozen years, he enjoyed teaching American literature and critical theory in the Midwest, but finally switched to journalism when he realized that if he graded one more paper, he'd go crazy.

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