Emma Donoghue was born in Dublin in 1969. She is a writer of
contemporary and historical fiction whose novels include the
bestselling Slammerkin, The Sealed Letter, Landing, Life Mask,
Hood, and Stirfry.
She is the youngest of eight children; not surprisingly, she
attended Catholic convent schools in Dublin. Her BA (1990) is in
English and French from University College Dublin. She later
moved to England to do her PhD at Cambridge (1997) on the
concept of friendship between men and women in eighteenth-
century English fiction.
From the age of 23, she has earned a living as a writer. She now
lives in London, Ontario, with her partner and their two children.
Emma Donoghue on Room
kid grammar and
whole dialogues from
our son Finn, who
was five while I was
writing it. Room was
also inspired by...
ancient folk motifs of
walled-up virgins who
give birth (e.g.
Rapunzel), often to
heroes (e.g. Danaë
Room was also inspired by the Fritzl family’s
escape from their dungeon in Austria
One day in 1984, 18 year old Elisabeth Fritzl helped
her all ready abusive father install a door in the
basement. There he handcuffed her, drugged her,
and kept her captive for 24 years, during which time
over she bore seven children. The torture took place
just feet from his wife Rosemarie, just a few floors
down from his tenants; just down the street from the
butcher, the baker and the post office.
The style is deceptively simple in terms of
word choice and sentence structure, yet it
was likely quite complicated to write prose
that both told the story and accurately
reflected the speech of the narrator. To
achieve this perspective, Donoghue studied
both cases of children born of rape and
Her narrator, five year old Jack, has a
sophisticated vocabulary that reflects his
above average education. His clumsy way of
speaking gives readers the feel of a small
child, but Donoghue manages to keep the
coherence of an older person. The narration
is informative, familiar, private, and intimate.
Because of his living situation, of course, the
young narrator’s perspective is very narrow.
QHQs to page 156
Q: Why does the author let the five-year-old boy narrate the story?
Q: Why does the narrator personify all the inanimate object?
Q: What is the relationship between the objects that Jack considers
real and the objects that Jack considers as “TV”?
Q: “Cats and Rocks are only TV” (p.17)
“ Bunnies are TV but carrots are real” (p.19)
“Vegetables are all real but ice cream is TV” (p.20)
Q: Why does Ma nurse Jack for so long?
Q: Why does the narrator keep referencing back to Alice from Alice
in the Wonderland?
Was the story of the mermaid and the magical comb about Jack and
Room: finish the novel. Read the chapter titled
Post #33 Choose one
QHQ Room “Living”
Explain the dynamic between Old Nick and Ma.
Why does the author choose not to tell us Old
What role do you think the media play in the
novel? How does the media contribute to the