Room – Book Review

After nap we do Scream every day but not Saturdays or Sundays. We clear our throats and climb up on Table to be nearer Skylight, holding hands not to fall. We say “On your mark, get set, go,” then we open wide our teeth and shout holler howl yowl shriek screech scream the loudest possible. Today I’m the most loudest ever because my lungs are stretching from being five.

Then we shush with fingers on lips. I asked Ma once what we’re listening for and she said just in case you never know. – from the ARC of Room –

Jack’s mother has lived seven years in a tiny room after being kidnapped at the age of nineteen. Jack’s birth (the result of repeated rapes), gives her a new purpose for her life – that of mother. Room is Jack and Ma’s story which begins on the morning of Jack’s fifth birthday. Narrated in the unique voice of Jack, the novel follows the characters from the limited life of captivity, to the overwhelming and chaotic Outside world and freedom.

Emma Donoghue deftly creates Jack and Ma’s world within an eleven by eleven foot room. Their days are surprisingly interesting, with Ma creating imaginative games for them to play together. But there is an underlying tension, made more poignant by the fact that it is through a five year old’s eyes that we see the story unfolding. Jack is no longer an infant. He is a smart, curious boy who asks a lot of difficult questions. His mother has allowed him to believe that the world does not exist except for the room in which they live, an alternate reality which eventually must be corrected if they are ever to escape Room.

I must admit that the first 40 pages or so of this novel took some getting used to…Jack’s voice is odd. But once I allowed myself to be fully inside Jack’s world, the book began to resonate with me. The daring escape attempt is perhaps one of the most suspenseful and nerve-wracking scenes I’ve read in a long, long time. Ma’s inner turmoil is perfectly captured through the eyes of her observant son – even though he does not fully understand it. What begins as a story of captivity evolves into a deeper novel of  mothering, love, hope and the resilience of the human spirit.

It takes a talented writer to write entirely from the point of view of a child – and Donoghue pulls off this feat seamlessly. The relationship between mother and child is beautifully revealed on every level. Donoghue’s ability to draw the reader in and emotionally invest them in the story is brilliant.  Room was recently shortlisted for the 2010 Booker Prize…and it is a well deserved nomination. Original, enthralling, haunting, and memorable Room is a novel I highly recommend for readers who enjoy literary fiction.

Other reviews of this book

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*FTC Disclosure: I picked up this book at the 2010 BEA for review on my blog.

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    • Amanda on October 3, 2010 at 08:28

    I am really, really looking forward to this book! I probably won’t even get to it for a year, but still, it looks amazing.

  1. I agree – it takes a little while to adjust to Jack’s voice, but once you do, watch out!

    • Molly on October 3, 2010 at 09:42

    With each review I read of this book, I am more and more convinced that I must read it for myself!

  2. Different kinds of voices in storytelling are intriguing. I felt the same way about The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. I agree with Molly–I’m also very interested from reading all the positive reviews :o)

  3. I found your review spot on. I also had trouble in the beginning with Jack’s voice, but once I got used to it, the book just took off for me. Can you imagine what kind of incredible patience that Ma had to have? I am so glad that you loved this one, and will be keeping my fingers crossed that it takes the prize!

  4. It took me a while to get used to Jack’s voice, but once I reached the half way stage I was in love with this book. It is my favourite read of the year so far! I’m so pleased that you loved it too.

    • Andi on October 4, 2010 at 05:21

    I’m excited to get to this one, and I’m considering just going ahead and downloading a copy to my Nook. My library doesn’t have it yet, and I’m increasingly annoyed at the wait!

    • Chris on October 4, 2010 at 10:30

    Great review and I’m so glad that you enjoyed it 🙂 And isn’t it just amazing how well Donoghue writes from Jack’s point of view??? I was amazed that she just never lost character! Such a fantastic book!

    • Jeane on October 4, 2010 at 12:26

    I so do want to read this one!

  5. Excellent review! I just finished writing mine and will get it posted later today or tomorrow. I won’t make you wait though…I loved it!! It’s simply an amazing book.

  6. My review is up. I loved this book!!!!

  7. I loved this one too! 🙂

  8. I can’t wait to read this one!

  9. I have not heard a bad thing yet about Room. I really must go out and get a copy. Thanks for the review!

    • Wendy on October 7, 2010 at 05:23

    Amanda: It *is* amazing – hope you’ll get to read it sooner rather than later!

    Kathy: I’ve added your review link to the post 🙂

    Molly: I think you would be blown away by this book – looking forward to hearing your thoughts on it eventually.

    Teacher: I really need to read Curious Incident – its been on my stacks for awhile!

    Zibilee: Glad to see you also loved the book – I’ve added your review link to this post 🙂

    Jackie: It seems like most people agree it takes a bit of time to get used to Jack’s voice…I’ve linked up your review here.

    Andi: Oh, I hope you’ll love the book!

    • Wendy on October 7, 2010 at 05:26

    Chris: I was VERY impressed how captivating the story was written from a child’s perspective – very talented author!

    Jeanne: Oh, I hope you will!

    Les: So glad you also loved the book – I tried to link up your review, but for some reason on your blog I couldn’t get a permalink (nothing happens when I click on the title of the post), so I was unable to give your link here 🙁

    Swapna: Another thumbs up! I’ve added your review link above.

    Kathleen: hope you’ll love it!

    Fantaghiro: You’re welcome! I hope you’ll love the book!

  10. Thanks for trying, Wendy. Here’s a link if you still want to include my review:

    Loved this book!!

    • Wendy on October 13, 2010 at 03:29

    Les: Thanks for the link! I’ve added it above 🙂 I was bummed to see Donaghue did not take the top spot for the Booker…I thought the novel was so brilliant it deserved to win.

  11. This sounds amazing! I love the challenge of writing a large book from a very limited POV. When people pull that off, it gives me chills. I will ask my library to order this.

    • Wendy on August 25, 2011 at 08:10

    Jane: Hope you’ll love it – the “voice” of Jack takes a little getting used to … but the book turned out to be chilling and so well done.

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