Entertainment

Emma Donoghue wins Writers' Trust prize for Room

Emma Donoghue's dark fantasy Room, about a child who lives with his mother in a locked room, has won the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize.
London, Ont.-based author Emma Donoghue won the $25,000 Writers' Trust Award for Fiction with her novel Room. (Dave Chidley/Canadian Press)
Emma Donoghue's dark fantasy Room, about a child who lives with his mother in a locked room, has won the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize.

The London, Ont.-based writer was given the $25,000 top prize for fiction at the Writers' Trust Awards in Toronto on Tuesday.

Room was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize, but lost to British writer Howard Jacobson's The Finkler Question. She is also a contender for the Governor General's Literary Award.

Room has been controversial because of its subject matter, which is similar to the case of real-life kidnap victim Elisabeth Fritzl, an Austrian woman who was imprisoned by her father and had seven children by him.

Donoghue told CBC News she recognized the public fascination with kidnap victims,  but her own interest was the intense relationship between mother and child.

The novel, told in the voice of a five-year-old boy, was called "harrowing" and "stunningly crafted," by the Writers' Trust jury.

Other finalists, each of whom win $2,500, were:

  • Trevor Cole for Practical Jean.
  • Michael Helm for Cities of Refuge.
  • Kathleen Winter for Annabel.
  • Michael Winter for The Death of Donna Whalen.
What Disturbs Our Blood: A Son's Quest to Redeem the Past by James FitzGerald won the non-fiction award. (Random House)
Toronto journalist James FitzGerald  won the $25,000 Writers' Trust Non-Fiction Prize for his family memoir What Disturbs Our Blood: A Son's Quest to Redeem the Past.

It tells the story of Dr. John FitzGerald, who founded Connaught Labs and the School of Hygiene at the University of Toronto and saved untold lives with his vaccines, but whose life ended in suicide.

The book, written by FitzGerald's grandson, is both a history of 20th-century medicine and a record of how tragedy stalked both the author's father and grandfather.

The other finalists were Ross King for Defiant Spirits: The Modernist Revolution of the Group of Seven; Sarah Leavitt for Tangles: A Story About Alzheimer's, My Mother and Me; John Théberge and Mary Théberge for The Ptarmigan's Dilemma: An Exploration Into How Life Organizes and Supports Itself; and Merrily Weisbord for The Love Queen of Malabar: Memoir of a Friendship With Kamala Das.

Other winners declared Tuesday in Toronto:

  • Journey Prize for short fiction ($10,000): Toronto writer Devon Code,  for Uncle Oscar, published in The Malahat Review.
  • Engel/Findley Prize for a mid-career writer ($25,000): Winnipeg novelist Miriam Toews, author of A Complicated Kindness.
  • Vicky Metcalf Award for Children's Literature ($20,000): West Coast writer Polly Horvath, author of Northward to the Moon and My 100 Adventures.
  • Matt Cohen Award in celebration of writing life ($20,000): Edmonton non-fiction writer Myrna Kostash, author of Reading the River: A Traveller's Companion to the North Saskatchewan River.

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