"I don't feel a bit crushed. Not remotely sad," said the Irish-Canadian novelist Emma Donoghue in an interview after the Man Booker Prize dinner Tuesday night. And why should she?
She may not have won, but she was in a party dress, going to a party (hosted by her British publisher, Picador), accompanied by her partner, Chris Roulston. Their two children were with a babysitter at home in London, Ont., and they were on the loose in the other London: "The bigger one," Donoghue said, "the one with crowds and traffic."
Then the writer, who was nominated for her seventh novel, Room, the story of a five-year-old boy kept captive with his mother in an 11-square-foot shed, paused and said, "I'm only sorry to disappoint the people of Canada and Ireland, who have been so good to me."
It was pointed out that on a day when Canada failed to secure a seat on the United Nations Security Council, her loss could be overlooked. (The book's nomination on Wednesday for a Governor-General's Award for fiction might help ease the pain.)
When she heard the name of the winner announced - it was The Finkler Question, by British novelist Howard Jacobson - she admitted "a brief pang, but no more. Just being on the shortlist has helped Room immensely." Room is a bestseller in several countries, including Canada, where she's lived since 1998.
The chair of the Booker jury, Andrew Motion, said that the judges had quickly narrowed their discussion to two of the six nominated novels. But which two?
Motion remained mum on that subject, but Jacobson, twice previously on the long list for the Booker, was exuberantly indiscreet on his history as an also-ran.
"There's been a bit of bitterness; I'd be a fool to pretend otherwise," said the 68-year-old novelist, who planned to spend some of the $80,000 prize money on a handbag for his wife. "But that's all over now."