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.
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.
on 14 March 2011
Found this book a little strange for first few pages but soon got into it and couldn't put it down, I think anyone with a small child will love this as it raises so many questions. If you have the time a great book to read in one sitting and the characters will stay with you for a long time.
on 8 May 2016
I sat down to continue reading this on a Sunday afternoon. It wasn't till I heard a rattling from the kitchen and realised I could smell burning that I remembered I'd put the dinner on to cook. The potatoes and carrots had boiled dry and were caramelised on the bottom of the pan. The roast potatoes were frisbees but the chicken proved to be very tender. Two hours had passed in a heartbeat. This is one seriously engrossing book and a brilliantly written story to boot. I think probably every adjective in the English language has already been used to describe how captivating it is and it deserves every one of them. These won't be new but, it is mesmerising, heartstopping, heartbreaking and heartwarming all at the same time. It reminds me of the Stephanie Slater story, the estate agent who was kidnapped, imprisoned and chained every night into a wheelie bin - and that was a true story, which makes 'Room' so believable. If ever a book deserved to be turned into a film it was definitely this one, though I doubt that the film is a patch on the book but as I haven't yet seen the film that last comment may be unfair.
Wholeheartedly recommend this one but make sure all gas and electrical appliances are off or under control before sitting down to read it!
on 4 September 2011
I loved this book. Even a month after finishing it I am thinking about the characters and thinking about how good it was and how beautifully written. Seeing things from the child's point of view and hearing his thoughts reminded me a little of The Curious Case of the Dog in the Night Time, although this book felt emotionally deeper that the Dog in the Night, probably because of the theme of captivity.
Despite that being the theme, it's not gruelling to read at all. At no point did I feel disgusted or disturbed, which I was worried about before I started it and was told it was inspired by the Josef Fritzel case. It IS about a mother and son being held captive, but the captor is given very little description and limited attention is given to him. Apparently Donaghue did that on purpose as she didn't want the book to be about him. She has said the main thing that gave her inspiration from the Fritzel case wasn't the torture or the assault or Fritzel himself; the thing she found fascinating was the idea of a child being born in that room and only knowing that for their whole life, then emerging into a world they've never seen before like an alien landing on earth. That's what comes through in the book and it's really eye-opening. The other overwhelming theme is the bond between a mother and child. That's what I found anyway. It's great - read it.
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.
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
on 2 August 2010
I read this book in a single day. The beginning & middle sections are compelling but it loses pace towards the end. From early on it is clear that something is terribly wrong & an atomosphere of fear & claustrophobia is effectivly created more by what is not said than what is. The story is told from the point of view of Jack, a five year old boy who has lived his entire life in a single room with Ma, his twenty six year old mother. Ma & Jacks day is highly regimented - Jack refers to objects in the room as if they are old friends- Meltedy Spoon, Rug, Sink. Every weekday, but not Saturdays & Sundays Ma plays a game with Jack where they scream at the skylight. Ma spends the nights flashing SOS signals with a torch. To Jack this is just everyday life but the reader will quickly understand the horrifying truth - that Ma & Jack are imprisoned in the room just like Elizabeth Fritzl & Natasha Kampusch in recent real world cases. Ma eventually devises a plan for them to escape & the rest of the book tells of the afternmath. While relating the story in Jacks voice is an interesting story telling device it becomes wearing after a while. It would have been better had the book been told from both Ma & Jacks point of view. That said it is a good read & a real page turner. It is the type of book that stays with you long after you have finished it.