Room: Book Review

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Room by Emma Donoghue is simply a brilliant book. Sheer genius. Room very much deserved the Booker prize it was short-listed for.

It’s also the book that gave me nightmares again.

Room is about a five-year-old boy who has lived his entire life locked with his mother in a remodeled garden shed after her abduction seven years earlier by a stranger.

It’s startling how different Jack is, as a result. For instance, all the items in the room (Rug, Table, Door, Bed, etc.) are capitalized because in his world, there’s only one of them, so they are proper nouns. And his eyesight hasn’t properly developed, especially not depth perception, because he’s never had to focus further away than eleven feet.

But what shines through (and what makes the book so disturbing) is the joyful tone of Jack’s narration. This is a happy child, much loved and content. He doesn’t know he lives in Hell because his mother has created a home for him there.

The problem is, he’s getting too big for it, and too smart to keeping believing the fictions (like that everything in TV is fake). Somehow, Jack’s mother has to find a way to get them both out of Room safely.

About eighty percent of the way through the book, I wondered how Donoghue could possibly end it. This child will/would be affected by these events his entire life, so as an author, how do you decide when to stop the narration? I didn’t see there WAS a place to stop without the reader feeling like they’d been thrown through the windshield when a car traveling at freeway speeds suddenly stopped. But the ending was pitch perfect, as indeed the entire book was.

It’s a tough subject, one that is painful to read. But without diluting the horror one bit, Donoghue has made it approachable. Room is a gentle story, full of love and affirmation. A celebration of devoted motherhood and the strength of the human spirit.

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15 Responses to “Room: Book Review”

  1. Mystica Says:

    I tried to get it in the library here in melbourne and its not available. I think it takes time for it to get to the public libraries here. Its available in the shops of course at a whopping 32$ at Borders. Thats huge!!! So have to win it somewhere. preferably on your blog of course!!!!

    The story for me was reminiscent of Still Missing – I know that dealt with an older woman but the undercurrent of always trying to find a way out of the horror is there.

  2. Melissa Says:

    I agree with you about the ending. I was prepared to be a little disappointed with it, but it was perfect!

  3. Durão Says:

    Great review! it’s just not fair how you made me starve for this book! :)
    It’s the kind of book that starts where I like it.
    I will ask around if it is going to be translated here in Portugal.

  4. cate Says:

    I just picked this up at the library and I don’t want to put it down. But I’m also kind of afraid to read it.

    • katrinastonoff Says:

      I can SO relate! It’s a very unsettling topic. But it’s a beautiful book. She handled it extremely well.

      My nightmare was from my personal experiences, not from the book (though certainly the book triggered it).

  5. Rita Ballard, C.Ht. Says:

    Room sounds like an excellent book. I used to read all of the books that came out about child abuse; I was fascinated with its various forms and the reasons why people don’t understand that it IS abuse, or just don’t care. I’d love to read this book.

  6. Mom Says:

    OK, you convinced me (though I am a little scared to read it), so put my name in the hat.

  7. Ghost of a Rose Says:

    How funny to open up your blog and see this! It’s the book I’m reading right now! I’m 83% finished. Everyone in my online book club raved about it (and so will I.)

  8. Margie Says:

    This sounds like an interesting and disturbing book. Please count me in.

  9. Icedream Says:

    I picked up a copy from my library and once I started to read it I only stopped for bathroom breaks and snacks until I finished. What a fantastic book and a great review of it, I’m thrilled you’ve spread the word about this amazing book. :)

  10. Jakob Says:

    How remarkable – I hadn’t had a nightmare in years either, until the night before last…

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