Room – Emma Donoghue – Book Review

Room – Emma Donoghue, copyright 2010.

Publisher: Picador

Pages: 321

Source: Personal Collection – Purchase New

Reason for Reading: Nominated for the 2010 Man Booker Prize

It is every parent’s worst nightmare for their child to be abducted. We fear for their safety and imagine how scared that child would be. But, step back for a moment. Try and imagine a child born into captivity. Imagine a child who knows nothing of the outside world. Imagine that.

Jack is five-years-old. Five is a big deal for Jack, because five is when his Ma begins “unlying” to him. Ma was kidnapped seven years ago; two years into her confinement, she is blessed with a son, the product of regular encounters with her captor. 11×11, Room is the only world Jack has ever known. The only people he knows exist are his Ma and Old Nick, the bringer. Skylight, lamp and wardrobe are Room; Skateboards, Potato Chips and Rain are TV. Things that are TV are not real, or that’s what Ma has always told him, until now. As Ma begins to acknowledge that there is, indeed, a world beyond Room, Jack is confused and becomes increasingly scared. Ma wants nothing more than for them to escape, but even if they could, does Jack really want to? The world that lies beyond Room is far beyond anything Jack can imagine.

“Air’s real and water only in Bath and Sink, rivers and lakes are TV, I don’t know about the sea because if it whizzed around Outside it would make everything wet. I want to shake Ma and ask her if the sea is real. Room is real for real, but maybe Outside is too only it’s got a cloak of invisibility on like Prince JackerJack in the story? Baby Jesus is TV I think except in the painting with his Ma and his cousin and his Grandma, but God is real looking in Skylight with his yellow face, only today, there’s only gray.” Room, pages 63-64

I know this all sounds really cryptic and in some sense it is, but it isn’t as hard to figure out as I have perhaps made it seem. It takes some getting used to in the beginning, adjusting to the voice of a five-year-old narrator, but once you adjust, I promise, you will be glued to this book. The story is comprised largely of dialogue, so you will progress through the pages at an almost alarming rate and as you do, you will be fascinated and spellbound.

Some fellow bloggers have expressed their concerns about reading this book, worrying that the plot would be too dark or graphic. None of those fears are justified. The tale of captivity is told from Jack’s point-of-view, not his Ma’s. Undoubtedly, if the story were told from her point of view, it would be a disturbing tale of anger, hatred and despair. As it is, Jack’s Ma protects him from the realities of their situation. Consequently, the story bears a profound sense of innocence and fascination. Donoghue’s ability to infiltrate the mind of a five-year-old child and bring clarity to a situation others would find mindboggling, is what makes this book the success that it is.

Room is truly spectacular. I have no doubt that Emma Donoghue will eclipse the competition in the battle for the Booker.

RATING: A Wool New Kind of Reading Experience

If you are still not convinced that this book is for you, have a listen to this interview that Emma Donoghue gave to Jian Ghomeshi, host of CBC’s Q.

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About Robbie

Hi there, my name is Robbie Burns (no,really, that’s my name…hold the haggis jokes please) and I would like to welcome you to the Pink Sheep Cafe. I started this blog as a means of discussing books and all things literary in light of my perpetual isolation. At the time I began writing, I was living in Split, Croatia. There wasn’t much here in the way of English book clubs and I couldn’t work, so I badly needed something to help me bide my time. My partner and I have since left Croatia and returned to Canada to live in Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories. When we first moved back here, my blog writing sort of fell by the wayside, but now I seem to be back on track. I try to read and review a little bit of everything here; I think everyone can find something to their liking here. I find myself tending more towards more literary reads these days, but I also enjoy a lot of YA and children’s fiction. One of my ongoing goals is to work my way through all of the Nobel Laureates. My two most favorite authors are Timothy Findley and Halldor Laxness.
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9 Responses to Room – Emma Donoghue – Book Review

  1. Iris says:

    Heh, well, that is exactly why I haven’t read the book yet (and the fact that there 180 unread books already on my shelves) I thought it would be too disturbing to read.

  2. Jessica says:

    I really enjoyed this one, I didnt find it that disturbing because it was told from Jacks point of view I think. Thought provoking though.

  3. It is great to see that you enjoyed this one as much as me. I’ve just reviewed a book (Forgetting Zoe) written from the POV of the abducted woman and as I suspected it was no where near as good as Room. That childhood innocence makes Room very special/unique.

  4. Kelly says:

    Everyone has been raving about this book! I definitely need to read it. If it’s out today I will pick it up later when I get another book on my list being released today 🙂 Though I feel like I’m going to empty my bank account!

  5. I was a little unsure of this one, but I’ve seen some fabulous reviews of this one (your’s included!) that I can feel a purchase coming along! 😉

  6. amymckie says:

    I am very much looking forward to reading this book. I can’t wait to pick up a copy! Great review.

  7. I loved this book too, and I, too, am hoping it can pull off the Booker win!

  8. Pingback: Top 10 for 2010 | Pink Sheep Cafe

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