Emma Donoghue: ‘To say Room is based on the Josef Fritzl case is too strong’

For those with an ear to the ground, the rumblings about Room, Emma Donoghue’s latest book, have been audible for months. First came the bidding war, eventually won in the UK by Picador; then the rumours, rare these days, of an astronomical advance (the figure of €1m has been mentioned; Donoghue allows only that it was “mortifyingly large”). And at the end of last month, a fortnight before it was due to appear in bookshops, Room was longlisted for the Man Booker prize. At that point, the rumblings turned into a roar. Until now, Donoghue’s reputation had been founded on her knack for spotting historical rough diamonds and buffing them into glowing narratives. Slammerkin, her unlikely bestseller in 2000, was spun out of a murder on the Welsh borders in 1763, while in 2006 The Sealed Letter took a notorious Victorian divorce as its grist. In the run-up to publication, however, word was that Donoghue’s seventh novel would be based on the modern-day case of Josef Fritzl, who locked his daughter, Elisabeth, in a basement for 24 years, raped her repeatedly and fathered her seven children – three of whom he imprisoned with her. Unsurprisingly, accusations of cynicism and sensationalism… Read full this story

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