Monday, 4 October 2010

Room by Emma Donoghue


DATE READ: August 2010

NOTES: Emma Donoghue has said that her book was inspired by the events surrounding the Fritzl and Kampusch cases. I was hesitant about reading Room as I thought it could be salacious and exploitative. But it is neither – instead she has produced an uplifting book about the love between a mother and her child and the human instinct for survival.

The whole story is told through the eyes of five year-old Jack. He has been born in the room and knows no other world. He has seen television but has not understanding about life outside. His mother (Ma) has told him stories constantly and taught him how to count and how to read. Their warm relationship is ripped apart whenever “Old Nick” chooses to come into the room. Jack knows that he is a hateful person but at the same time is aware that they depend on him for everything.

By choosing to relate the whole story through Jack the author was setting herself a difficult task but she rises to it magnificently. It could have become very twee or artificial but this is avoided. My only query is Jack’s use of language. He tends not to use the definite article and refers to objects as “room”, “chair” or “bed”. He has a good role model in his mother and also has a television so I thought this struck a wrong note.

Once they are outside Jack becomes embroiled in a whole series of misunderstandings and misperceptions – hardly surprising. I don’t want to quibble (as I thought this a really good book) but felt that Ma and Jack were not as protected from the wider society as they would have been in real life.

As I read Room I wondered how she would write the ending. I was not disappointed – I thought the ending was spot on!

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