on 31 January 2011
This is a book I hadn't heard much about prior to picking it up (I try to avoid too overly-hyped novels), but I'm so glad that I gave this a chance. There's not a lot I can add to all the previous reviews and comments that hasn't already been said, other than to afirm that this is a bloody good read.
Told from the point of view of five year old Jack, the novel sees him and his mother living in `Room,' a place the child has never left in his whole life. Unbeknownst to him however, that is because he and his mother are both prisoners and this little boy's world is about to be turned entirely upside down...
I am in awe at the authors ability to consistently maintain the voice of a child in telling this story; granted an incredibly *smart* child, but a child nonetheless. This is what for me made this book so fascinating, because Jack is such a memorable narrator. Also, the relationship between a mother and child who ultimately only have each other was told such in a moving way that for me that was the essence of the novel, despite the sinister plot twists, which were granted, a bit predictable but still very well portrayed.
I adored this book and couldn't put it down. The storyline is compelling, despite the sad turns of events, and characters are incredibly skilfully developed and believable. I would urge everyone to read this book- you won't be sorry you did.
Being aware of the rather unappealing premise of 'Room', it wasn't a book I wanted to read. Despite the praise heaped upon it, I had expected it to be the sort of voyeuristic account of great suffering that passes as entertainment these days. My book group however, were keen to read it, and so I acquiesced agreeing to give it a try. I have to say my original assumption was well wide of the mark. Right from the beginning it is obvious that this novel is something special.
The story (as you probably already know) is narrated by 'Jack', a five year old, who has only ever lived in 'Room'. Jack's mother has been kidnapped and held for seven years. Jack is the product of her kidnapper's unwanted attentions. Knowing the book had a child narrator had also put me off reading it. I tend to find that books written with a child's voice are normally pretentious and hard to read. Room's Booker prize nomination had done nothing to allay these fears.
Although Jack's voice is not entirely consistent with how I imagine a five-year-olds might be, it is the making of the novel. For a start, that something so pure and innocent can come from such bleak circumstances, makes the novel bearable. Secondly, Emma Donaghue uses Jack's over-simplified understanding of the world almost without fault. She uses the space between reality and Jack's view of reality to convey events in a much more powerful way than writing about them directly. The whole novel is the ultimate example of 'showing' rather than 'telling'.
It is curious that the most exciting point of the novel is about halfway through. Though I feel novel's the gradual relaxation of tension is entirely justified (mirroring, Jack's return to something like a normal life), it does make the last half of the novel feel over long. That said, following Jack coming to terms with 'Outside' is well-handled and almost as heart-breaking as his incarceration. For a book about such a dispiriting subject, `Room' contains a surprising amount of humour; Jack's unique view of the world, does show us all up to be rather foolish.
'Room' is a highly readable novel. Although not always pleasant, it is never depressing. If, like me, you are wavering about reading it, then I would say `Room' is well worth a view.
on 25 October 2011
I loved the premise of a story about a little boy who has never seen the real world, but obviously the fact that the plot is lifted from recent news events does make it rather less original and, therefore, less surprising when it becomes clear where the main characters are living, and why. I enjoyed the delayed revelation and the process of piecing together the clues about their life. Although there are some lovely moments stemming from accurately observed incidents of childish innocence, and some enjoyable occasions where we as readers are obliged to try and work out which object or incident is being described by the child, the narrative voice nearly always felt slightly forced and self conscious. In the first third of the book especially, the child's voice was clunkily depicted to the point of being a hindrance. The continual capitalisation of common nouns and absence of 'the' was obviously designed to reflect the simplicity of a child's speech, but it felt awkward. You could compare that to say, the far more complex fictionalised nadsat used in A Clockwork Orange, where it is so beautifully seamless that you absorb the meaning without effort. The later two thirds of the book improve because other adult voices are heard, so there isn't the continual voice of a five year old doing a bad job of explaining what is going on. I think a dual narrative from both mother and son throughout would have been a lot better. I managed to finish it, but it's going to the charity shop.
on 30 January 2016
Room -- An amazing book - unputdownable ! I JUST ADORE JACK. He is very clever, observant and understanding of adults feelings and moods. Emma has brought the characters to life for me. I can't visualise but then I don't want to retain this awful character Old Nick in my thoughts. The other characters were so well drawn by Emma. How she got into Jack's mind and imagination is amazing , MY two daughters read the book when it first came out and they haven't forgotten the way they were gripped by it after all this time. I'd love to read more about Jack growing up but perhaps that will not be possible for Emma Donoghue - she put so much into writing this wonderful book
This is a genuinely original, imaginative and ambitious novel which Donoghue pulls off brilliantly. Written through the voice and perspective of 5 year old Jack, we witness his happy and secure solitary life with his mother in Room. Playing on the tradition of other naive child-narrators (e.g. Pip in Great Expectations, Maisie in What Maisie Knew) we experience his exuberant take on what he naturally assumes is normal, only the sinister implications of their life seep through the edges to unsettle us as readers, revealing a far more menacing reality that he doesn't see.
This isn't a plot driven novel full of twists and turns, instead it is an intelligent and detailed exploration of the way the human mind constructs its own reality. Full of tenderness as well as pain, this celebrates the relationship created by this young mother with her son, and reveals the enormous potential for resilience in the human spirit.
The second half of the book where Jack experiences Outside for the first time is fresh and imaginative, sometimes funny but also agonising as this solemn 5 year old understands for the first time that the world doesn't consist of just him and his mother, and that the rules which they lived by can, and should, be broken.
There are a few small points where Donoghue stumbles (the first TV interview felt very false and forced; some of Jack's naivety towards the end takes on the tinge of adult satire and I felt like it was the author, not the character, talking about how people have too little time to enjoy their lives).
But these are small niggles in a powerful and overwhelmingly confident narrative. I started this in the afternoon and was literally unable to put the book down till I finished it that night and even after that Jack's voice still haunted me. It's quite rare for me to be really gripped by a contemporary literary novel but this one managed it effortlessly: highly recommended.
Room is based on an original, arresting, thought-provoking premise. It's narrated by a five year old boy (Jack), who has spent his entire life living inside a small room where he and his mother are held prisoner. His mother was abducted at the age of 19 and has been repeatedly raped: Jack being born some 2 years later. Jack's mother is frequently depressed and desperate to escape. However she has protected Jack from the realities of their situation and one of the book's central ideas is that when you know no better, you always think the world that you live in is normal and it will still represent home to you.
Having a child narrate the book is very clever in many ways. Jack is oblivious to the heroic efforts that his mother makes to protect and entertain him, but these are obvious to the reader. However he never really worked as a narrator for me. He starts the book speaking in quite broken english but quickly leaves that affectation behind. I realise that he was meant to be a highly developed child in some areas while very behind in others. But I couldn't reconcile a child who knew words like omnivore, nutritional and antenna and then at other times would describe something as "the hurtest". The first time he sees his mother vomiting he describes it as "stuff falling out of her mouth like spit but much thicker", but next moment he's calling it vomit and using the word freely from then on. All these inconsistencies kept interrupting the flow of the book for me. There were also times when I would like to have been given a better insight into the reasons for his mother's actions, which the choice of narrator made impossible.
It's a story with two distinct acts, punctuated by a nerve-wracking section in the middle. I felt that the story loses momentum in the second half of the book, petering out towards the end.
This is one of those books that sucks you into its world and makes you reconsider your own. It's a quick read that's highly absorbing. I can understand why so many people think that it's brilliant, but I only found it good, not great.
Emma Donoghue's Room has been long-listed for the 2010 Booker Prize and if it doesnt get on the short-list then go on to win I will be completely amazed. I think I can safely say that is the best book that I have read for a very long time, in fact, it's possibly the best book that I have ever read.
The story opens on Jack' fifth birthday - a birthday that he will celebrate in Room with his Ma. Jack has always lived in Room, he has never been outside of this 11 foot by 11 foot room, in fact Jack believes that nowhere else exists. His friends include Table, Door, Wardrobe and Plant, he watches Dora on TV, he sees other people, flowers, trees, roads and the sea on TV programmes, but he believes that they are 'only in TV'.
The only other thing that ever enters Room is 'Old Nick' - the man who brings them clothes and food and if they are lucky a 'sunday treat'. Jack hides in Wardrobe when Old Nick appears, counting the bed squeaks until he leaves again and Jack can join Ma in her bed.
Emma Donoghue has created a wonderfully endearing character in Jack, his narrative is atmospheric, imaginative yet very credible. Jack's vocabulary is a little strange and often stilted yet so descriptive, he sees everything in such a limited way yet the story of how Ma and Jack came to be in Room soon unfolds. As Jack is so young and had no experience of the wider world, he sees nothing wrong in the way that they live, yet the reader sees between the lines and the full horror of their experiences are soon understood as you continue to read.
It is when Ma decides to 'unlie' about Room and their situation that the pace quickens, as Jack beings to slowly realise that Room is not the entire universe and they gradually consider ways to escape his whole world changes, so many questions, so many 'unlies' to consider.
This book evokes some very strong feelings, I went through a realm of emotions from shock and horror to sadness and sorrow - it is a story of the human race and of innocence and love.
There is a quote from Audrey Niffenegger on the front of the book, she says "..... when it's over you look up: the world looks the same but you are somehow different and that feeling lingers for days."
I have no doubt that this story will stay with me for a very long time, there are many things to consider. This is totally unique, unlike any novel that I have read before and I doubt I will read anything that is so affecting again.
What a range of reviews. Loved, hated and all stops in-between!
Although divided into five sections, it is in football pundit jargon a book of two halves, the action within “room” and that which follows. The former seems to me a significant achievement. The way in which the relationship between mother and child is presented through the wholly convincing utterances of the boy is compelling, and the mystery factor in making sense of their peculiar situation, especially for those like myself who had not seen the trailer or been privy to descriptions of either film or book, is deeply involving. The way in which the objects within their confines take on significance and particularly the books, which so much determine the child’s mode of speech, are read and re-read so that their imaginary worlds take on more meaning and intensity than the reality, is skilfully done. It is a relationship that could, perhaps, only flourish in circumstances such as those they find themselves in. It is, indeed, a relationship that in its claustrophobic intensity is palpable; the feelings of both characters are acutely alive.
What follows is, probably inevitably, more predictable, but that the larger part of the story is taken up with consequences and trauma that are convincing enough but lack any of the unique quality of the earlier Jack/Ma relationship leads to an inevitable sense of anti-climax. The psychologist, the relations, the institutions have none of the freshness of the opening sections. In striking contrast to life within the “room”, the tension here unwinds rather than builds up to an emotional climax. It may be that that is the author’s intention, but for the reader – well this one anyway – the book falls away. Here understanding is ahead of events rather than feverishly grappling to focus on them.
I’m torn as to whether to give 3 or 4. Emma Donoghue has done something here that genuinely evokes vibrant feeling, and she shows adroit awareness in not allowing “Old Nick” to become a rival centre of interest. I found nothing here that is flashy or pretentious. Rather at its best the story has depth and sincerity and it is at its best genuinely original – so 4.
on 22 June 2011
I was looking forward to reading this much lauded book and I am very glad I did. The synopsis on the back doesn't give much away, but you probably already know by now that it is about a about a 5 year old boy, Jack, trapped in a room with his mother, who was kidnapped and locked away in a room by her captor. We have read a few cases in the media of such cases, so the subject matter is an interesting one.
Telling the story through a child's eyes was definitely a novel approach. It was difficult to get into the child-speak style of writing at first but I soon became engrossed and slightly ashamed of myself for my initial thought that writing in the style of Jack was laziness on the author's part. In actual fact I now appreciate just how difficult it must have been to write a book from a child's viewpoint. I would say for 80% of the time Ms Donoghue did a good job of this, although there were a few misjudged sentences, eg when Jack states how he doesn't like it when his Ma 'does sarcasm'. I can't believe any five year old, regardless of intelligence, would understand what sarcasm means, much less how to recognise it.
I don't think it's giving anything away or spoiling your enjoyment of the book by saying that eventually they do manage to escape and taste the real world - many reviewers have said that at this point they felt the book was less interesting but I beg to differ. I thought it was fascinating to see how these two characters dealt with seeing the world again after so long in captivity, especially Jack, who has NEVER known the outside world. It's amazing to watch his development.
Room is a remarkable tale of survival, courage, determination, and childish joy. I enjoyed it right through to the end and now I have finished it I miss little Jack terribly!!
I ordered this book after hearing about it from the author on a radio 4 programme. The author spoke of people she had talked with and research she had done which included the fairly recent Elisabeth Fritzl of Austria and Sabine Dardenne of Belgium, both of who were very high profile in the media.
The book starts the story from within `Room' with five year old Jack and his mother `Ma'. From time to time the reader is taken back to the time of Ma's college days, and kidnap, but in the main it is all about giving Jack's days structure and keeping him occupied, safe and happy in such limited living conditions as their one room. Ma's captor, `old Nick', has lost his job and Ma's forward thinking of the consequences and impact upon their lives, or possible death, of him having no money to support them makes her realise that she has a very few short days or weeks to stage an escape.
Once in the `outside' one would expect their troubles to have come to an end but with the change in the world, Ma's family and media pressure, it is far from easy for Ma. Inside `Room' was the only life Jack knew and finds the simplest of things such as daylight, grass and all the things we all take for granted very confusing and at times difficult to understand.
Written totally from Jack's viewpoint I initially found some of the language a bit difficult to get into and not easily flowing, although the book as a whole flows well and is smoothly written.
If you want a more mature story of a similar nature then I Choose to Live by Sabine Dardenne is an excellent account of her kidnapping and how she coped with it.