Thursday, 2 September 2010

Room by Emma Donoghue

Out of all the books on the Book longlist 'Room' appealed to me more than the others.
Jack, a young boy, lives with his mother in a room 12 feet square Jack is perfectly happy with his life in Room; he plays imaginative games with his mother, they exercise and watch TV. The book begins with Jack’s fifth birthday, as he gets older he naturally becomes more curious. His mother tells him that the fictional world he sees in TV is all around them and that 'outside' isn't just space but a place where other people live.

Most of the reviews I have read so far have been very positive and the reviewers have loved this book, I’m not going to disagree with them. Given the subject matter this is a surprisingly easy read yet still gives the reader plenty to think about and carries emotional impact.

The book is told through the eyes of 5 year old Jack which is not as irritating as it sounds. Some parts made me chuckle such as the typically childish things Jack comes out with that we can all relate to. What I think was very clever was that some of the games and conversations that Jack describes have more meaning to the reader while to Jack they are just harmless games. An example of this is the game which Jack and his mother play every afternoon which involves both of them standing on the kitchen table and screaming as loudly as they can while banging pots and pans. Jack doesn't understand that this is more than just a game...Scenes like this allow the reader to fill in the blanks and gives another layer to the narration.

One reason I was personally grateful for the young narrator is that the book was not as depressing or as grim as it would have been if told through the mother’s eyes. If the book had been told through the mothers eyes then this would have been a very different kind of book but as Jack is na├»ve and also shielded from some of the more frightening realities in his world so the reader is also shielded. This is not to say that the book glosses over some of the more harrowing issues as it doesn’t, but it does mean that the book can focus more on the relationship between Jack and his mum rather than have a misery memoir full of imprisonment and rape.

My only minor quibble with this book is one of the events towards the last third of the story where I feel as though one of the characters did something I think was out of character. But this is only a minor tiny little quibble which I won't discuss since it will spoil the story for those who haven't read it yet.

Would I recommend this? Yes, although I found this quite a thoughtful book there were also some quite tense and exciting moments and I loved it.

Verdict – 4 ½ stars

Posted by Jess


  1. This is one I was initially uninterested in, but have gotten more interested since seeing reviews.

  2. this sounds intense and lovely. I love the idea behind it, and I think you're probably right about it being a good thing that it was told from the child's point of view. Very interested to read this one!

  3. I am so keen to read this, I must get my hands on a copy soon.

  4. Glad to see you enjoyed this one as well. Not perfect but very very good.

  5. I really want to read this. Glad you enjoyed it.

  6. Great review Jess and I do think that you are spot on with the narrative. I think had it been through her it would have been quite a different book to read, much darker.

    It is a book that seems to have the Marmite effect though doesnt it?

  7. I'm pleased that you enjoyed this too :-)

    I also loved the way she hid the full horror of the situation from her son. I think this made it a much more powerful book as we were made to imagine everything.

  8. Amanda & mummazappa & kat - I hope you both enjoy if you do eventually get around to getting a copy.

    brizmus - its not as intense as you would think it would be as to Jack everything is quite normal for him. Its an interesting read.

    Simon - it does, I even read someone compare it to a misery memoir. Ive just leant it to my mum and I can never tell what she is going to think so Ill be interested to see what she says about it.

    Jackie - yes, it meant that it was up to the reader to fill in the gaps rather than have everything spelt out for you, quite effective.

  9. I want to read this book before the 15th of September because I'm going to her book launch and I've heard great things about the book (including your review) - thanks for the reveiw! :)

  10. Room has been my favorite read this year, and I'm glad to see you liked it too! I found the narrative engaging, and I was not looking forward to a child narrator, but I can't imagine this novel being successful any other way.

  11. reederreads - I hope you enjoy it then if you are going to her book launch (which is quite cool btw)

    nomadreader - I dont think Ive read any other books with such a young narrater (aside from childhood ones) so I had nothing to compare to but it was very well done.

  12. Seen through the mother's eyes it surely would have been a different book.

    I have yet to pick this one up though even though several others have raved about it recently. I need a couple more long weekends to catch-up with what I already have.