Books by Emma Donoghue

Emma Donoghue is an award-winning Irish writer who lives in Canada. At 36, she has published four novels, two books of short stories, two works of literary history, two anthologies and two plays. Born in Dublin, Ireland, on 24 October 1969, Emma is the

AKIN by Emma Donoghue
Released: Sept. 10, 2019

"Not as ambitious or challenging as Donoghue in absolute top form (say, Room), but readable, well crafted, and absorbing."
Revisiting his birthplace in France, a retired university professor reckons with his past—and, unexpectedly, the future in the form of a great-nephew. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 9, 2018

"Funny, well-crafted, and mostly intersectionally inclusive. (Fiction. 8-12)"
When a major storm forces Toronto's creative Lottery clan to revise their plans for the winter solstice and succeeding holidays, Sumac misses familiar family traditions. Read full book review >
Released: March 28, 2017

"For all the Lotterys' apparent eccentricity, the novel delves into universal themes of family relationships that will resonate with readers from all backgrounds. (Fiction. 8-12)"
The Lotterys, a family very much of our century, star in this story about the true meaning of acceptance and belonging. Read full book review >
THE WONDER by Emma Donoghue
Released: Sept. 20, 2016

"Her contemporary thriller Room (2010) made the author an international bestseller, but this gripping tale offers a welcome reminder that her historical fiction is equally fine."
An English nurse confronts Irish history and entrenched prejudices—some of them hers—in this stinging latest from Donoghue (Frog Music, 2014, etc.). Read full book review >
FROG MUSIC by Emma Donoghue
Released: April 1, 2014

"More fine work from one of popular fiction's most talented practitioners."
In the sweltering fall of 1876, a San Francisco prostitute tracks a killer and searches for her stolen baby. Read full book review >
ASTRAY by Emma Donoghue
Released: Oct. 30, 2012

"Another exciting change of pace from the protean Donoghue."
Fourteen tales of people cut loose from their roots—voluntarily or not. Read full book review >
ROOM by Emma Donoghue
Released: Sept. 13, 2010

"Wrenching, as befits the grim subject matter, but also tender, touching and at times unexpectedly funny."
Talented, versatile Donoghue (The Sealed Letter, 2008, etc.) relates a searing tale of survival and recovery, in the voice of a five-year-old boy. Read full book review >
THE SEALED LETTER by Emma Donoghue
Released: Sept. 1, 2008

"Uncharacteristically dull work from one of contemporary literature's most interesting and entertaining writers."
In her third historical novel, Donoghue (Landing, 2007, etc.) portrays a sordid Victorian divorce that roiled the women's suffrage movement. Read full book review >
LANDING by Emma Donoghue
Released: May 7, 2007

"Not one of this talented author's most ambitious works, but warmhearted, readable and entertaining."
Lesbian romance goes mainstream in this charming tale by Donoghue (Touchy Subjects, 2006, etc.) of a cosmopolitan Irish flight attendant and her down-home Canadian girlfriend struggling to find common ground for their newfound love. Read full book review >
TOUCHY SUBJECTS by Emma Donoghue
Released: June 1, 2006

"Delightful examples of Donoghue's all-encompassing talent that should be read by fans of her period pieces as well as her gay audience—indeed, by anyone who cherishes thoughtful, warm-hearted fiction."
The author of two intelligent, atmospheric historical novels, Slammerkin (2001) and Life Mask (2004), reapplies her sharp eye to the contemporary world in 19 engaging short stories. Read full book review >
LIFE MASK by Emma Donoghue
Released: Sept. 1, 2004

"A little slow to start, but readers who give themselves over to its unhurried rhythms will be rewarded: a full-bodied tale that satisfies the head and the heart."
Donoghue's latest, another fabulously entertaining historical (Slammerkin, 2001, etc.), illuminates three intertwined 18th-century lives. Read full book review >
SLAMMERKIN by Emma Donoghue
Released: June 1, 2001

"Irresistible, and deeply satisfying. Donoghue has surpassed herself."
This boldly imagined historical fiction—reminiscent, though by no means imitative, of both Defoe's classic Moll Flanders and Margaret Atwood's recent Alias Grace—represents a quantum leap forward for its Irish-born (now Canadian) author. Read full book review >
Released: May 1, 2001

"One of the best books of the year thus far. Like Andrea Barrett, Donoghue has staked a claim to her own distinctive fictional territory."
Seventeen stories by the Irish-born Canadian author (Slammerkin, 2001, etc.) ransack what Donoghue calls "the flotsam and jetsam of the last seven hundred years of British and Irish life" for razor-sharp vignettes of the fates of women in judgmental male-dominated societies. Read full book review >
KISSING THE WITCH by Emma Donoghue
Released: May 11, 1997

Under a surface as seamless as stone worn smooth by the sea are tales readers may know, but with images and perspectives quite different from the canonical tradition. What if the beast in Beauty and the Beast were a woman? What if the shrill voices ordering Cinderella to work were inside her head? Rapunzel, Donkeyskin, Snow White, and other familiar heroines take unconventional shapes within Donoghue's beautifully hewn prose, in deeply female stories, scented with blood and flowers. Each story is linked to the next by the frame of a question that a character in the previous story asks; Donoghue thus nests the stories in a way that each follows the other to become one long tale. The murkiness of desire and the necessity of finding one's way will resonate for adolescents struggling with issues of identity, sexuality, stepparents, and societal strictures. A dark jewel. (Short stories/folklore. 12+) Read full book review >
HOOD by Emma Donoghue
Released: March 1, 1996

This second novel by Donoghue (Stir-fry, 1994) offers an elegiac reconstruction of a long love affair and a fascinating portrait of lesbian society in modern Ireland. Bright, self-assured, dependable Pen O'Grady first meets neurotic, alluring, exasperating Cara while both are in convent school. The two quickly become fast friends and, more gradually, lovers. Donoghue offers a wry, sharply observed portrait of the manner in which the adolescent Pen and Cara come to terms with their sexuality, the mingled fear and exuberance of their discovery, the conflicting pressures to hide and proclaim their love. Their physical passion (``a blur of bliss across the brain'') turns out to be the simplest part of the relationship. Cara, restless, romantic, scornful of the more mundane elements of life (Living, Pen says, ``seemed to be more of a battle for Cara than anyone I knew'') seems driven to wander: She repeatedly breaks off the affair, pursues (sometimes disastrously) other women, yet always eventually returns to the tart but forgiving Pen. She is returning yet again, after a brief fling, when she dies in an accident. The novel is essentially a monologue as, from the perspective of the week in which her lover is buried, Pen, alternately angry or despairing, looks back over their 14-year relationship, reconstructing it, attempting to make some sense of their lives together. Pen ruefully admits that she has always been ``solid,'' dependable, even predictable. But Donoghue does a deft job of catching Pen's wry intelligence and intense romanticism, the deep certainty she has in her identity. She is less successful with Cara, who remains a somewhat enigmatic figure: It's uncertain whether Cara is merely intensely self-absorbed or a generous, tormented figure. Fortunately, though, it's Pen who dominates this spare, powerful narrative. Her unsparing record of a difficult, intense, vital affair, and her meditations on the nature of desire, are exact and profoundly moving. Read full book review >
Released: May 10, 1995

An impressive piece of scholarship that seeks to bring passion into the lesbian history of late 17th and 18th century England. Closely reading the literature of the period, novelist Donoghue (Stir-Fry, 1994) gives her reader meticulously detailed evidence that during the years 16681801 lesbianism was popularly represented. Contrary to historians who have a tendency to dilute and dismiss bonds between women as sisterly affection, Donoghue asserts that women who loved women during the 18th century did not only have friendship on their minds. While the word lesbian could be used in the context of friendship, the term ``tribade'' (from Greek, meaning ``a woman who rubs'') was most commonly used to describe any woman capable of enjoying sex with another. With chapters on female hermaphrodites, female husbands, cross-dressing, romantic friendship, and erotica, Donoghue explores a range of female relationships from the platonic to the sexual. She does not shy away from the controversial when she examines the erotica of the time (almost exclusively written by men) and gains affirmation from the lesbian eroticism found in a literature other feminists might deem offensive. A lesbian herself, Donoghue's investment in her own text makes it all the more engaging. She deserves credit for making a distinction between lesbian and bisexual history and explicitly states that her book is a ``shared'' one. She also does well to emphasize that gay male history and lesbian history should be studied separately. While her prose is crisp and sometimes refreshingly ironic, Donoghue falls into the academic trap of overloading her reader with exhaustive textual examples. At times slow going, but nonetheless offering historical affirmation of an erotic and romantic lesbian presence during this period. Read full book review >
STIR-FRY by Emma Donoghue
Released: May 18, 1994

In her sweet first novel, Donoghue (Passions Between Women: British Lesbian Culture, 1668-1801, not reviewed) writes clearly but never plainly about Maria, a young woman from the country who comes to Dublin to begin college. Maria (pronounced with a long i to rhyme with ``pariah'') has the usual struggles in her early university days, but these scenes are refreshed by her lack of guile and by Donoghue's prose, which never condescends—even when Maria is too naãve to catch on immediately to the lesbian relationship between her two female roommates, despite some obvious signs. Eventually she surprises them in a kiss and, though shocked, stays on. One, Ruth, becomes almost a substitute mother for her, teaching her to cook and taking her to her women's group. Jael is more confrontational and less of a homebody, but she too warms up to Maria, whose growing acceptance of their sexuality coincides with some exploration of her own. With the encouragement of her friend Yvonne, a cheerful man-hunting fellow freshman, she halfheartedly pursues crushes, first on a brooding, pony-tailed man in her art history class, and then on an American visiting for a semester from Brooklyn who runs the lighting for a theater production for which Maria is on the stage crew. Mostly Maria worries about figuring herself out, since she has never before had a chance to decide what she likes. Slowly she begins to build an identity. On a visit home with Yvonne she feels embarrassed by her little brothers and by her parents' provincial life. Drifting away from her church upbringing, she muses about how ``automatic'' it was to attend church on Holy Days of Obligation at home, because the whole village went, while in Dublin such days simply slip her mind. Donoghue deftly separates her novel from the usual coming-of- age fare with gentle language and a winningly intelligent protagonist. (Author tour for Gay Pride Month in June) Read full book review >