Room Hardcover – Deckle Edge, Aug 30 2010
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Quill & Quire
Emma Donoghue steps outside of her comfort zone with Room, her new novel. The Irish-born novelist, who now makes her home in London, Ontario, is known primarily for her richly detailed historical fiction (such as 2000’s Slammerkin) and stories exploring lesbian relationships. Her latest effort is quite a departure, and it seems to be working: the book garnered a spot on the Man Booker Prize shortlist.
The plot bears resemblance to the horrific true events surrounding Austrian Josef Fritzl, who kept his daughter imprisoned in a soundproof bunker in his basement for 24 years, fathering seven children by her. Rather than having the imprisoned woman tell her story, Donoghue places the narrative in the hands of a child born into a 12’ x 12’ room, the only home he’s ever known.
As a narrator, five-year-old Jack is tremendously enticing. His mother, kidnapped seven years earlier while walking through her college campus at age 19, has created a world for her son that is rich in play and learning, all the while anticipating the day they might make their “great escape.” This environment has provided Jack with an impressive vocabulary, though his advanced learning is juxtaposed with the natural innocence and bewilderment of a small child. The result is a story told through a child’s eyes, but in language that is endearing rather than tiresome.
The pace and plot of the story are both pitch perfect, though after the climax midway through the book, the reader may wonder what could be left to say. A great deal, it turns out, as Jack faces a whole new world of unfamiliarity and fear. Earnest and bright, he is remarkably adaptable, and provides commentary that is lushly intricate.
The character of Ma, while not the main voice, is nevertheless whole. Donoghue employs Jack’s descriptions of her moods, conversations, and thoughts to paint a picture of a woman struggling to keep it together for the sake of her child, while also fighting to become the person she once was and might be again, if circumstances allow.
Room is disturbing, thrilling, and emotionally compelling. Emma Donoghue has produced a novel that is sure to stay in the minds of readers for years to come.
"I loved Room. Such incredible imagination, and dazzling use of language. And with all this, an entirely credible, endearing little boy. It's unlike anything I've ever read before."
- Anita Shreve, author of The Pilot's Wife ()
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Top Customer Reviews
In Jack's world, he has songs and stories. He has a snake made from egg shells, and a maze made from toilet roll inserts. He has the unreal world of television which he sometimes watches in unlimited amounts when Ma doesn't get out of bed. For Jack, these are the days `when Ma is gone'.
One day Ma tells Jack that there is a world outside Room. And this becomes the beginning of another story, one which is best read uninfluenced by reviews and story synopses.
I added this book to my reading list because it is on the Man Booker 2010 longlist. I had some misgivings about reading it given the subject matter but once I started reading it, I couldn't put it down. I would have found it unbearable if it was written from the perspective of Ma. Our view, through Jack's eyes, is more focussed on the relationship between son and mother than on the situation itself. The book ends, but the story isn't over.
It's like a crater, a hole where something happened.'
The intrigue goes on and on, everything seems surreal to the extreme as you discover that the boy thinks the room is the whole world and everything else is 'in TV'. His hair has not been cut since the day he was born and he breast feeds. Baby Jesus gives them food and the face of God is to be seen through the skylight. The boy turns five and you are puzzled as per why his mother cannot give him any other present than a drawing she made, drawing he has to hide in Wardrobe, where he sleeps. So you start counting possibilities: aliens? Year 2150 something? No one else on planet Earth which actually does not exist anymore?
Well, mystery solved when 'old Nick' appears into the picture. Jack is hidden in the wardrobe and counts his teeth to fall asleep, then counts the squeaking that Bed makes when 'old Nick' goes on Bed with Ma. Jack is allowed to go on Bed under 'Duvet' only after 'old Nick' is gone. Bingo, they are hostages, she has been kidnapped, the boy was born there, he does not know anything else. Intrigue becomes interest as you want to know more, you cannot believe that this is happening and every detail is a crescendo of clues that you are trying to assemble for a better image of the whole puzzle.(...)
To see the entire review go to allwords.ca
A 26 year old woman has been kidnapped and held captive in a soundproof, escape-proof 11 x 11 foot Room for 7 years. She has a five year old son, Jack. She cares for him fiercely and has created a world for him out of that Room, giving him everything she possibly can that he needs to grow properly, physically and emotionally. They do daily exercises, she teaches him, etc. This is their story, of their day-to-day life, their escape and how they cope on the Outside. A truly fascinating story to start with is only topped by the fact that it is told in the first person narrative of five year old Jack.
I'm going to start by saying this is a hard review for me to write. I agonized over my rating. There is not doubt that Room is a wonderful piece of writing. The subject matter is enticing and the reality of the situation has been explored to such detail that one is amazed the author could have thought of some things without having actually experienced captivity herself. The book is divided into distinct sections, each one focusing intensely on a certain stage of Jack and Ma's story. Donoghue has managed to write about a horrific situation without ever actually putting in print any scenes that show the obvious s*xual violence that was perpetrated. In the hands of a lesser author this could have become a much more graphic story thus losing Ms. Donoghue's perceptive touch. The book reads fast, is compelling and is tremendously well written.
So why is this review hard to write? I didn't love the book. Yes, it was good. Good enough to keep me reading, and reading quickly too. The second half was better than the first, as in enjoying the story and the characters.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
This book had me captivated from the first word to the last. I prolonged finishing it for awhile because I didn't want it to end. Absolutely loved this book.Published 3 days ago by Mugs
This book is well written from a young boys point of view. Now I need to see the movies. Good read.Published 4 days ago by Amazon Customer
Moving story,the type of novel that will stay with me long after I placed back on the shelf.Published 5 days ago by Elizabeth Barter
A riveting read and made a good read for our Book Club. Leads to lots of discussion on a crime that is still being committed today.Published 5 days ago by Amazon Customer
This is a truly excellent story. I thought it would be harder to read, but having the story told by a 5 year-old really completely changes the feel. Read morePublished 22 days ago by Venita
This is the one of the best books that I have ever read and I would say that it definitely is the best book that I have read in 2015. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Jessica Donald
The novel written by Emma Donoghue is a good read. It starts off with Ma and her son Jack. They live in a shed that they call ''room''.
Ma and Jack do everything together. Read more
Room by Emma Donoghue has been on my radar for a long time, but it kept being pushed to the bottom of my TBR pile. Read morePublished 2 months ago by soapathetic