Monday, April 4, 2011

REVIEW: Room by Emma Donoghue


To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it's where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it's not enough...not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son's bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work.

Told entirely in the language of the energetic, pragmatic five-year-old Jack, ROOM is a celebration of resilience and the limitless bond between parent and child, a brilliantly executed novel about what it means to journey from one world to another.

About the Author
from her website

Born in Dublin, Ireland, in October 1969, I am the youngest of eight children of Frances and Denis Donoghue (the literary critic, Henry James Professor at New York University).  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 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 (7) and daughter Una (3).

 Find Emma on Facebook

My Thoughts
Today I’m five. I was four last night going to sleep in Wardrobe, but when I wake up in Bed in the dark I’m changed to five, abracadabra...
And so we are introduced to five-year-old Jack, who stands as our narrator throughout this story. Jack is a little boy who was born to a woman being held hostage by a man who kidnapped her 7 years earlier when she was 19 years old.

Jack has known nothing outside of Room (Jack thinks of everything as being alive, so the names of objects takes on more meaning for Jack, as they are the “names” of living things. They are his friends.) Room is the entire world, and as far as he knows, there is nothing in the world outside of Room, his mother, and his mother’s kidnapper (and his father) Old Nick.

I had a little difficulty adjusting to the child’s perspective of this book. It takes awhile to get the hang of having so many inanimate objects with names (Remote, Bed, Rug, Door, Wardrobe), and to get inside the mind of a child.

Jack is smart. At times he is too smart, leaving me feeling at times that I’m reading an unrealistic portrayal of a little boy. And typical of children, he can be quite self-centered and lack a certain consideration for his poor troubled mother.

His mother’s total focus is Jack. While Room is Jack’s world, Jack is his mother’s world. One can only imagine what life was like for his mother before Jack, trapped day-in and day-out in a single room all by herself, and raped and brutalized with no end in sight. Then one day Jack is born, and there is suddenly something to focus on and live for.

The Cover: I like the cover depicting the word “Room” written in a childlike script. Very fitting.

Five words to describe this book: Sorrowful, hopeful, simple, timely, intriguing

Content Rating: Not really any sexual situations (other than “implied”), and no vulgarity that I can recall. There are a number of things to toggle the “gross factor”, but nothing more than most parents have dealt with on a regular basis.

My final word: Well, this book was pretty good. It kept me hanging on, wanting to know what would happen next, and how things would work out for them. However it wasn’t quite as good as I had hoped for. It just seemed a little...I don’t know...empty. There wasn’t much excitement or anything. It was more psychologically-based than I really expected. But good nonetheless, and a satisfying read in the end.

My Rating: 8 out of 10


Anonymous said...

This one fell a little flat for me too, maybe because there was just so much hype and I knew most of the plot before I read it.

Brasil said...

Room is an amazing novel. If the subject matter worries you - I would urge you to read it anyway because the reader is never treated to anything graphic. Donoghue handles this horrifying subject carefully yet realistically.
But it was Jack who pulled me into this story - his "voice" and outlook, much like any bright and precocious child's, is delightful, funny, and captivating.