Thursday, January 13, 2011

Room by Emma Donoghue

"I still don’t tell her about the web. It’s weird to have something that’s mine-not-Ma’s. Everything else is both of ours. I guess my body is mine and the ideas that happen in my head. But my cells are made out of her cells so I’m kind of hers. Also when I tell her what I’m thinking and she tells me what she’s thinking, our each ideas jump into our other’s head, like coloring blue crayon on top of yellow that makes green."
Room by Emma Donoghue is one of those books that has been everywhere, short-listed for the Man Booker Prize and a favourite read of 2010 for many so after a couple months on my shelves I was eager to pick it up. Room is a novel told from the perspective of five-year-old Jack, a child born inside of a room he has never left. To Jack, there is nothing but Room, where he lives with his Ma, going to sleep each night in the wardrobe so he is kept hidden from Old Nick. Old Nick is the man who has kept Ma a prisoner for the last seven years, and although she has made it a home for Jack she still dreams of leaving. Ma forms a plan for the two of them to escape, but leaving Room is the only the first step towards a normal life for Jack and Ma.

The voice that Donoghue uses for Jack is incredibly realistic, and I was completely taken into the mind of this smart but unusual little boy. As a story, Room is both heartbreaking and beautiful, but there were often times when I craved slightly more from the characters. In more than once instance Donoghue failed to go deeper into issues which played a major role in the lives of Ma and Jack, including *minor spoiler* a seemingly out of nowhere mention of an abortion and a stillbirth *spoiler over*. I felt that if Donoghue was going to bring up events which are clearly very emotional, it should have been discussed further, although that might have been difficult given the five-year old narrator. While I was reading Room I enjoyed it, but after I finished it I became disappointed by a book that had not impacted me. The premise of Room, inspired by true events although the novel is completely fictional, is so incredible that I think the hype lead me to expect more from the book. Room lacked the literary depth I was hoping for, which may be due to the young narrator- perhaps both the best asset and the biggest hindrance to the novel's success. Experiencing the world through Jack's eyes is a wonderful and exciting thing, but eventually I expected more of the book which felt too simple. Ultimately, Room is an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon but Donoghue failed to take full advantage of the potential the novel had leaving me lusting for what almost could have been. 

Release Date: September 13, 2010
Pages: 352
Overall: 3.5/5
Source: ARC from Publisher 
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  1. This book is very intriguing but I decided to pass, one because of the hype and two because of what you mentioned, just seems like so much will be left out due to the voice of the 5 year old.

    I enjoyed your review.

  2. As you know I really liked this book because it was written from the perspective of Jack but I agree that this meant it lacked depth in areas. Maybe it would have been better if it had have been narrated by the two character - chapter for chapter or something.

  3. Emma Donoghue really impressed me with this novel. I chose it to read after wanting to find out what all the hype was about, because a book rarely has 'hype' unless it is worth it. This one certainly was.
    I loved how she told the whole thing through the child's eyes, explaining things he had never seen or experienced before. The author was creative, unwavering in character, and just overall very skilled in writing this story.


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