Room – Emma Donoghue, copyright 2010.
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.
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.