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Room Paperback – 7 Jan 2011
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Emma Donoghue's writing is superb alchemy, changing innocence into horror and horror into tenderness. Room is a book to read in one sitting. When it's over you look up: the world looks the same but you are somehow different and that feeling lingers for days (Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler's Wife)
Room is one of the most profoundly affecting books I've read in a long time. Jack moved me greatly. His voice, his story, his innocence, his love for Ma combine to create something very unusual and, I think, something very important . . . Room deserves to reach the widest possible audience (John Boyne, author of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas)
I've never read a more heart-burstingly, gut wrenchingly compassionate novel . . . As for sweet, bright, funny Jack, I wanted to scoop him up out of the novel and never let him go (Daily Mail)
This is a truly remarkable novel. It presents an utterly unique way to talk about love, all the while giving us a fresh, expansive eye on the world in which we live (New York Times Book Review)
Startlingly original and moving . . . Endearing and as utterly compelling as The Lovely Bones (Scotsman)
This book will break your heart . . . It is the most vivid, radiant and beautiful expression of maternal love I have ever read (Irish Times)
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)
Shortlisted for the Man Booker PrizeSee all Product description
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But, I was glued to the book, it was mother apart from limited one of those I couldn’t put aside and while Jack’s narration probably isn’t a true reflection of how any child, even one whose whole vocabulary comes from another adult, it was pitched at a level to remind us he is a child, at a level so that whilst the innocence shone through but without compromising the telling of a story.
We get an idea of how Jack’s mum didn’t give up, she threw the whole of her energy into entertaining, nurturing and teaching Jack with limited resources, just five book and a TV for outside stimulation, everything else had to be invention on her part. There are physical education lessons which involve racing round the bed, all sixteen of Jack’s steps and using the bed to put on trampoline routines. She imposes strict routines for meals, for chores and for bedtime where Jack sleeps in the wardrobe to be out of sight if ‘Old Nick’ comes to visit. It is this, the sheer resilience of this young woman, only twenty-six at the point we enter the story, that prevents this from being a misery-fest and turns it into something quite special indeed.
Because Jack’s life is so narrow it would be very easy for the story to be repetitive and as fun as his musings over Dora the Explorer and Barney are, I’m pleased to confirm that the story has far more to offer than I initially expected. Through Jack’s eyes, and ears, we get to see how the pair ended up in the room in the first place allowing the reader to plug the gaps which may not completely take away the horror of the story unfolding but makes it a tad more bearable than if this had been told by the mother.
For me it was the latter chapters that had the most impact and gives rise to some of the important questions that perhaps aren’t easily answered. On Jack’s fifth birthday he is told by his mother that the life on the TV exists outside his room. There is far more than the slither of sky and moon he can see through the skylight if they stand on the table. The world is big, there are other people than the two he knows about and yet he struggles with the concept and questions things in a way a child born into a life which isn’t behind a locked door would never do.
Heart-rending and yet uplifting, Room is one of those books I think I’ll struggle to forget, so mesmerising is the tale, so appealing is its narrator and so horrifying a premise to dwell upon, I now understand why this book caused the stir it did when it was published in 2010.
As everyone except me now knows, it is about a woman locked in a room somewhere in North America with her five year old kid. The narrator’s voice is that of the five year old. Everything is seen through his eyes. His life is boring, stunted, deprived obviously and his narration is taken up with the endless repetition of mundane daily tasks: eating, reading and re-reading the same five books, television, games and exercises. All in a room eleven ft square. So it pretty quickly becomes a boring, repetitive book; there are only so many childhood thoughts to interest the reader.
He is precocious. His mum teaches him to read and write way beyond his age-level and of course this would be a likely outcome of an intense one-on-one relationship between an intelligent young woman and a bright kid where there are no other distractions. In fact knowing no other life the kid Jack, is full of five-year old curiosity. A bit too much for me and the voice became irritating ‘Wonderland’ about a third of the way through particularly set my teeth on edge and the whole thing is too long.
But there are some brilliant set-pieces in it. Old Nick’s little speech on how lucky they are is a terrific piece of writing; parking Ma is very, very clever although the reasons for the parking don’t ring true at all; the escape is good, some reviewers have a problem with it but she [ED] could have done this in twenty different ways so what does it matter. Jack is oblivious to the heroic efforts that his mother makes to protect and entertain him, but these are obvious to the reader; you still think the world that you live in is normal and it will always represent home to you.
Also, I loved the way that no-one ever says, ‘I love you’. Most excellent.
I hadn’t realised that Emma Donoghue specialises in writing novels using real lives and real stories as source material. She researches, then writes her version. In interviews, she says that it wasn’t the confinement story that interested her it was the later adjustment to the outside world she wanted to engage with and in fact the novel is very clearly divided in two, the capture and imprisonment then the release and the adjustment.
Just a bit too long. I can see what she is doing, building, building, building showing not telling but it goes on for too long.