Room by Emma Donoghue, published September 2010 by Picador USA.
Read: January 2014
Goodreads Synopsis: Jack is five. He lives with his Ma. They live in a single, locked room. They don’t have the key. Jack and Ma are prisoners.
Room is inspired by the true story of Elisabeth Fritzl, an Austrian woman who endured emotional and sexual assault while imprisoned by her father in his basement for 24 years. She eventually bore him seven children who were imprisoned with her until rescue. In Donoghue’s story, Room is home to Jack, but a prison to his Ma, who has been held captive for 7 years.
Initially, I found it difficult to get into this story as it is narrated by 5-year-old Jack. This was a somewhat off-putting and challenging point-of-view, which can be seen in Jack’s description of watching TV:
“I’d love to watch TV all the time, but it rots our brains. Before I came down from Heaven Ma left it on all day long and got turned into a zombie that’s like a ghost but walks thump thump. So now she always switches off after one show, then the cells multiply again in the day and we can watch another show after dinner and grow more brains in our sleep.”
Although it took some time to get used to, after a few chapters it became surprisingly natural to read. Donoghue has received some criticism for her interpretation of a 5-year-old’s perspective, in that it isn’t very accurate for such a young child who has lived in isolation for his entire life. I do agree with this, but also understand that to write the book purely from a 5-year-old’s point-of-view just would not be practical, so I think she did a good job.
Donoghue took a risk with this book, and I think it will fall into the “marmite category” for most people, you will either get it and love it, or it will annoy you and you’ll hate it. Once I got into the story I found it difficult to put the book down, I was so eager to find out how the story would end. There were parts when my heart was racing, and I actually found myself thinking about it throughout the day when I wasn’t even reading it. I agree with the Audrey Niffenegger quote on the sleeve:
“When it’s over you look up: the world looks the same but you are somehow different and that feeling lingers for days”.
Room definitely gives you some food for thought, that at times can be uncomfortable to read, but makes for a great story in the end.
I did have some minor issues with the point-of-view of the novel and with the plot twists at times, but overall it was a really good read with some intriguing characters.
There has been much media-chatter about Room being turned into a movie, I can’t find a confirming source but there does seem to be plenty of online sources that seem to think this is close to becoming a reality. It will be very interesting to see how they adapt the book for the big screen!
Have you read Room? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!