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Emma Donoghue

Born in Dublin, Ireland, in October 1969, I am the youngest of eight children of Frances and Denis Donoghue (the literary critic). I attended Catholic convent schools in Dublin, apart from one eye-opening year in New York at the age of ten. In 1990 I earned a first-class honours BA in English and French from University College Dublin (unfortunately, without learning to actually speak French). I moved to England, and in 1997 received my PhD (on the concept of friendship between men and women in eighteenth-century English fiction) from the University of Cambridge. From the age of 23, I have earned my living as a writer, and have been lucky enough to never have an ‘honest job’ since I was sacked after a single summer month as a chambermaid. After years of commuting between England, Ireland, and Canada, in 1998 I settled in London, Ontario, where I live with Chris Roulston and our son Finn and daughter Una.

What the Critics Say

'Donoghue is a master of plot, and her prose is especially exquisite at depicting ambiguity.' - Time (2016)

'These rooms of Donoghue’s may be tiny and sealed off, yet they teem with life-and-death drama and great moral questions.' - Washington Post (2016) 

'We can count on her to plumb the heart of human darkness.' - Newsday (2016)

‘Reading an Emma Donoghue book is like falling into a deep friendship with an unlikely stranger: a lady of the evening, an cross-dressing frogcatcher, an imprisoned child.  The author’s empathy for outsiders makes for captivating characters; she illustrates the complex inner lives of her creations with a candor that shows humanity at its best and worst.’ – Washington Post (2014)

‘An uncanny knack for telling an off-putting story in such a way that you can’t stop reading it, that you fall a little bit in love with the characters and the moment in time.' - Seattle Times (2014)

‘Donoghue is so gifted at depicting the fraught blessing of motherhood.” – Chicago Tribune (2014)

‘Can inhabit any kind of fictional character and draw us into even the most unfamiliar world with her deep empathy and boundary-defying imagination.’ - Newsday (2012)

‘Donoghue is one of those rare writers who seems to be able to work on any register, any tone, any atmosphere, and make it her own.’ – Observer (2007)

‘Her touch is so light and exuberantly inventive, her insight at once so forensic and intimate, her people so ordinary even in their oddities.’ – Guardian (2007)

‘A mind that can excavate characters and lives far, far beyond her own front fence.’ – Globe and Mail (2007)

‘Donoghue has the born storyteller’s knack for sketching a personality and pulling readers into a plot in just a few pages… All-encompassing talent.’ – Kirkus (2006)

‘Emma Donoghue is distinguished by her generous sympathy for her characters, sinuous prose and an imaginative range that may soon rival that of A.S. Byatt or Margaret Atwood.’ – Publishers Weekly (2004)

‘Has an extraordinary talent for turning exhaustive research into plausible characters and narratives; she presents a vibrant world seething with repressed feeling and class tensions.’ – Publishers Weekly (2004)

‘Her informed imaginings combined with her sheer cleverness and elegance as a writer breathe vivid life into real characters who heretofore resided in the footnotes of history.’ – Irish Times (2002)

‘Every now and again, a writer comes along with a fully loaded brain and a nature so fanciful that she simply must spin out truly original and transporting stuff… Eccentric, untethered genius.’ – Seattle Times (2002)