"No one can be lonely who has a book for company." ~ Nelle Reagan

Friday, July 22, 2011

Book Review: Room by Emma Donoghue

Author:  Emma Donoghue
Publisher:  Harper Collins Publishers Ltd.
Copyright:  2010
Pages:  321
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
ISBN  978-1-55468-832-6
Source:  I won a copy at fReado

International Bestseller, Winner of the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize, Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best Book (Canada and Caribbean Region), CBA Libris Awards for Fiction Book of the Year and Author of the Year

Finalist for:  Man Book Prize, Governor General's Award, Orange Prize for Fiction, Trillium Book Award, Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best Book

From the cover:  To five-year-old Jack Room is the world....
It's where he was born.  It's where he and Ma eat and sleep and play and learn.  There are endless wonders that let loose Jack's imagination -- the snake under Bed that he constructs out of eggshells; the imaginary world projected through the TV; the coziness of Wardrobe beneath Ma's clothes, where she tucks him in safely at night, in case Old Nick comes.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it's the prison where she's been held since she was nineteen -- for seven long years.  Through her fierce love for her son, she has created a life for him in that eleven-by-eleven foot space.  But Jack's curiosity is building alongside Ma's own desperation, and she knows that Room cannot contain either indefinitely...

Told in the inventive, funny, and poignant voice of Jack, Room is a celebration of resilience -- and a powerful story of a mother and son whose love lets them survive the impossible.

Review:  ROOM is unique.  Never before have I read anything quite like it and that is its charm.  ROOM is told from the perspective of young Jack, a five-year-old, who is kept captive with his mother in a 11 x 11 foot garden shed.  Jack personifies items in the ROOM, such as Rug, TV, Wardrobe, as pronouns, and all he knows is ROOM.  Outside is foreign to him.  All he knows is Ma, Old Nick and what he can learn from his mother and TV.

To Jack, this is his life.  This is normal.  This is what there is.  But Ma and we, the readers, know better. Shocking, poignant, yet touching, ROOM epitomizes the "something" new that we don't often have the opportunity to come across.  The manner of telling the story of captivity from a child's perspective brings a new light to what could otherwise be a horrific tale.  With Jack's point of view, it is told in innocence, without actually telling of physical trauma, particularly for his mother, but we know it's there.  We read from an adult perspective but see it from a child's.  Totally different and, yet, the same.

ROOM is fresh, creative and touching.  You will find the story stays with you long after the book is read.  You may be altered for it.

Rated 4.5/5


  1. I've had this on my TBR pile for ages now! I really need to get round to reading it!

  2. I thought this was fantastic too - very clever and moving with a lot of insight, without being graphic and sensationalist.

  3. I agree with your comment that Room is unique. We had a bit of drama at our book group when we discussed it with a man that hated everything about it, but he was a rude man in general and gone banned! I read it in one sitting and thought it was very clever.

  4. Room is the kind of book that makes me remember why I love reading. I read a lot of books I'd call 'great' but every now and then I read one that I'd call 'a treasure' and this is one of them.
    The prose is vivid and the tone is exactly what I would expect from a five year old. Jack's narrative is a kind of simple and pure stream of consciousness but it also has the kind of sophistication you'd expect from a five year old who's mother has very little else to occupy her time than focus on her child and try to create the most normal of childhoods in the least ordinary of settings.
    While reading I was really struck by Emma Donoghue's ability to write so visually while using so few adjectives, I felt like I was literally seeing the world through Jack's eyes.
    I was completely engaged with his process as he pieces together all the details of his reality and the reality of 'outside'. The psychological changes that Jack and Ma go through are fascinating. I particularly liked the fact that Ma is never written as a victim to be pitied and patronised, her characterisation is such that while she is often afraid she is strong and wilful, and doing this avoids melodrama and cliche. The story has this ring of truth and reality to it which is its strength.

  5. Ellie, I find it funny, LOL, that he was banned! That's terrific!

    Mummazapoppa, I too was glad it wasn't sensationalized. Telling from a child's perspective tones down the details of the situation which, in another author's pen, may have been really graphic. It was an original way to approach the story and it works.

    Jules, I'd be interested to know your opinion once you have read the book.

    France, thank you for sharing your insightful review here. I love it when others take it and run with it the way you have. I totally agree with you on the point you made about the mom not being made out to be a victim who needs pitying. She was always strong for her child, exhibiting incredible character. It's a unique story with an original perspective, and it is that perspective of the child that makes the story so strong.


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