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Room [Deckle Edge] [Hardcover]

Emma Donoghue
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (115 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Aug. 30 2010 Governor General's Literary Awards-Romans Et Nouvelles (Fict

WINNER! 2010 Rogers Writers' Trust Award for Fiction

SHORTLISTED for the 2010 Man Booker Prize

SHORTLISTED for the 2010 Governor General's Award

To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It’s where he was born and where he and his Ma eat and play and learn. At night, Ma puts him safely to sleep in the wardrobe, in caseOld Nick comes.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it’s the prison where Old Nick has kept her for seven years, since she was nineteen. Through ingenuity and determination, Ma has created a life for herself and her son, but she knows it’s not enough for either ofthem. Jack’s curiosity is building alongside Ma’s desperation -- and Room can’t contain either of them for much longer...

Told entirely in the inventive, often funny voice of Jack, Room is a celebration of the resilient bond between parent and child, and a brilliantly executed novel about a journey from one world to another.

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Product Description

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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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
98 of 104 people found the following review helpful
Jack is the narrator of `Room'. Jack is excited by his fifth birthday, is curious about the world and full of energy. But Jack's physical world is contained within an 11 by 11 foot space called Room where he and his Ma live. This is Jack's world: the room and its contents, and his mother. Because we are viewing this world through Jack's eyes, we are protected in part from his mother's awful reality. Jack recounts what he sees and experiences and the reader knows the situation that Jack and his Ma are in. But Jack does not: this is his life and this is the only world he knows.

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.'

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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52 of 59 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but not Great Sept. 28 2010
By Nicola Mansfield HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Reason for Reading: With this subject matter, who is *not* wanting to read this book?

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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read this Book Now Feb. 18 2011
By Heather Pearson TOP 500 REVIEWER
Read this book. Just drop everything else and read this book.

I wanted to end my review at the end of my second sentence, but decided that you might want to hear the why behind my statements.

This story is of Jack and his ma. Jack is five and they live in Room. Not a room, but Room. Jack believes that it is the only room, there are no others. He has seen tv, but everything there is not real, it's on a different planet. He has never been outside Room; there is nothing outside. He is too young to understand that his mother was abducted and raped and that he is the result. She has chosen to raise him in ignorance of outside so that he will be content with his life.

I was captivated by this story. It's not that it was exciting or glamorous or even brutal. I had to know more about this little boy and how he could behave so normally under such bizarre circumstances. I read in awe of this compact world that author Emma Donoghue had so convincing created. There have been several instances where women have been held captive similar to this and I imagine that they must have constructed similar rules for their tiny worlds.

I can't say I loved this book, as it's not the type of story that inspires love. Rather it is a compelling one that I found hard to put down. It will stick with me for a long time.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Room Jan. 13 2011
Room is by far the most intriguing and unusual book I've read this year. On the surface, it is a chilling account of a heinous crime in which a young woman is abducted, repeatedly raped and locked in a fortified sound-proof room for seven years. What makes the story so compelling is that it's told from the point of view of her innocently precocious five-year-old son, Jack, who has spent his entire life inside the room, completely isolated from the outside world. But Room is much more than just a heart-wrenching crime story. It's also a fascinating exploration of the way in which the mind constructs its own unique version of reality, completely subjective in nature and shaped by its environment. In Jack's case, the extreme lack of sensory stimuli in his restricted environment severely distorts his concept of reality, impairing his ability to function in the outside world. By using Jack as narrator the author allows us to experience the boy's distress and confuson firsthand. It also gives her the opportunity to infuse some comic relief into the story as Jack dizzily tries to wrap his brain around the hundreds of new sensations that confront him. Seeing things through Jack's eyes, we also come to appreciate the incredibly strong bond that exists between mother and child. Despite their deprived circumstances, or perhaps because of them, Jack's mother is determined to nurture and educate her son to the best of her ability, preparing him for the day when they will be freed from captivity. Throughout their ordeal, she shows remarkable courage, resilience and single-mindedness, never abandoning hope and never allowing Jack to sense the grim reality of their plight. Room is a powerful, thought-provoking novel and a one-of-a-kind reading experience that is not to be missed.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good book. Keeps you wanting to read it
Very good book. Keeps you wanting to read it. So sad to see how hard it was for Jack to come into the real world. Get to know your neighbours and find out what they are hiding. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Cheryl HOrrigan
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Well written, believable with sadness and hope.
Published 2 months ago by Candace Brochmann
3.0 out of 5 stars the story is a good one.
Inconsistent use of language that is supposedly the child's story from that perspective. If you are not put off by the writer's lack of knowledge on 4 - 5 year old speech and... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Deanie L. Kolybabi
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Great concept and well written - just way too disturbing for me to enjoy it.
Published 3 months ago by ZoeKegan
4.0 out of 5 stars Not a novel as I see novels.
Easy to digest, but a strange unfulfilling feeling afterward. I liked the novel and its conceptual messages but it wasn't to me a novel - it was more a philosophizing phantasy of... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Waymark, Graeme
5.0 out of 5 stars superb
Really interesting concept and execution. The story is told from the perspective of the five year old boy in the story and the author pulls this off wonderfully. Read more
Published 3 months ago by green eggs and sam
3.0 out of 5 stars ROOM
A strange book, But you can see it happening.. To not be able to have fresh air and trapped in a box . What if you were claustrophobic.
Published 7 months ago by ELLEN M POVIN
5.0 out of 5 stars Room
Heartrending and heartwarming tale written from the boys perspective. I love how his mother made the best of their hostage situation for her son. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Barbara Chessum
4.0 out of 5 stars great book - very real
This book was very touching - could very well be a true story. Great read kept me turning the pages! I would recommend it to anyone.
Published 8 months ago by Erica
5.0 out of 5 stars Another perspective
Loved this book! Definitely was easy to get emotionally connected to the narrator. Didn't want the book to end. Great perspective.
Published 8 months ago by Jen1482
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