Ms. Donoghue is the author of the critically acclaimed and wildly popular novel, Room, and will present her new book, Frog Music (Little, Brown and Company, $27.00), at R.J. Julia Booksellers in Madison next Tuesday evening, April 8th. (See event details below.) She was born in Dublin in 1969 and is an Irish immigrant twice over: she spent eight years in Cambridge doing a PhD in eighteenth-century literature before moving to London, Ontario, where she now lives with her partner and their two children. Though best known for her novels, she has written in a variety of genres that have included literary history, biography, stage and radio plays, fairytales, and short stories. Room was an international bestseller, a New York Times Best Book of 2010, and a finalist for the Man Booker, Commonwealth, and Orange Prizes.
Frog Music was published on April 1st, and has received an overwhelmingly positive critical response that has included starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Library Journal. Darin Strauss, author of Half a Life, praised, “Donoghue shows more than range with FROG MUSIC—she shows genius. Like and unlike her stunning ROOM, this novel lifts into view a strange crime, a remarkable woman, and is a Ringling Brothers-grade feat of narrative strength….Blanche and Jenny are characters you will never forget, filmed in vibrant, cinemascope prose, and they mark Emma Donoghue’s greatest achievement yet.”
From the publisher:
Summer of 1876: San Francisco is in the fierce grip of a record-breaking heat wave and a smallpox epidemic. Through the window of a railroad saloon, a young woman named Jenny Bonnet is shot dead.
The survivor, her friend Blanche Beunon, is a French burlesque dancer. Over the next three days, she will risk everything to bring Jenny's murderer to justice--if he doesn't track her down first. The story Blanche struggles to piece together is one of free-love bohemians, desperate paupers, and arrogant millionaires; of jealous men, icy women, and damaged children. It's the secret life of Jenny herself, a notorious character who breaks the law every morning by getting dressed: a charmer as slippery as the frogs she hunts.
In thrilling, cinematic style, FROG MUSIC digs up a long-forgotten, never-solved crime. Full of songs that migrated across the world, Emma Donoghue's lyrical tale of love and bloodshed among lowlifes captures the pulse of a boomtown like no other.
Now, Emma Donoghue reveals a few pages from the book of her own life …
1) As a child, did you wear your literary lust loud and proud or were you a closet bibliophile?
Out and proud! As the daughter of an English teacher and a literary critic / university professor, I was allowed to read at the expense of all else. My parents never made me shut my book and go outside even to catch a rare ray of Irish sun.
2) What book(s) were you likely to be caught keeping company with under the covers?
Fairy tales above all, plus nineteenth-century novels; I remember making a family tree to help me sort out the plot of Emily Bronte's WUTHERING HEIGHTS.
3) What one book do you always recommend when asked?
Everybody should read the major novels of Charles Dickens, by law.
4) Which of your own books would you suggest to readers & why?
ROOM seems to seize the widest variety of people, whether those who want a quick read about a child in peril, or academics writing PhDs about it, so I'd probably recommend that one.
5) Is there a book or author that readers would be surprised to know you’ve read and liked?
I'm a hardcore fan of the Jack Reacher thrillers by Lee Child, though I could never write anything in that pulse-pounding style myself.
6) Who is the one author that would, or did, make you weak in the knees upon meeting?
I was all of a flutter meeting Michael Cunningham, but luckily geniuses are often easy to like as well, so he put me at my ease right away.
7) Has there been an “I’ve made it” moment in your career?
When I sold my first two novels to Penguin, at the age of twenty-two, and realised I could actually pay my rent this way, without getting a 'real job'. There have been great moments since - notably, when ROOM got shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize - but none that made such a difference to my sense of how my life might go.
With thanks to Emma Donoghue for her generosity of time and thought and to Morgan Moroney of Little, Brown and Company for facilitating this interview.
Ms. Donoghue will appear at R.J. Julia next Tuesday evening, April 8th, at 7 PM along with Hannah Kent (Burial Rites). This event is free and open to the public; registration is required and can be completed online or by calling the store at 203-245-3959. Copies of Frog Music will be available for purchase and signing. R.J. Julia is located at 768 Boston Post Road in Madison.