I’m bringing back my review of Room by Emma Donoghue for those of you who want to read a unique and heartbreaking novel this summer.
Rating: 4 stars
Synopsis: Jack is a 5-year-old boy who has never set foot outside the confines of the tiny shed where his mother is held captive by her abuser. Narrated from Jack’s innocent perspective, the novel follows his ‘Ma’ and her attempts to save him from their desperately mundane and unnatural existence. But even if she can find a way to escape, will she and Jack be able to survive in a world that has been a stranger to them for years?
The most unusual aspect of Room is that it is narrated entirely from the little boy’s point of view. Some readers might find such simplicity of language trying, especially alongside the inevitably poor grammar! Other reviews have also expressed frustration at the inherent restriction in this approach, as they are unable to access the thoughts of Jack’s mother throughout her ordeal. However, I found myself enchanted with his view of the world; Donoghue perfectly captures a child’s wonder and creativity. My favourite example of this is Jack’s description of a sunset:
I watch God’s face falling slow slow, even orangier and the clouds are all colours, then after there’s streaks and dark coming up so bit-at-a-time I don’t see it till it’s done.
I thought this bright imaginative perspective was a stark contrast to Ma, whose suffering is evident. She sometimes falls into a dark depression that Jack calls ‘Gone’. In my opinion, his naïve descriptions make the realities of the pair’s situation even more haunting.
Debate point coming up! Some people I have spoken to about Room think that certain aspects – such as Jack being breastfed until the age of five – are a little sensationalist, written more to draw a reaction from the reader than anything else. Thoughts? Let me know whether you agree or not below…
The plot of Room moves relatively steadily but slows down a touch in certain places. I did not find this an issue; rather I enjoyed the opportunity to savour Jack’s captivating observations. Some of his remarks can be disarmingly accurate:
I remember manners, that’s when persons are scared to make other persons mad.
Donoghue’s incredible realisation of her characters was strong enough to keep me continually engaged. Jack and Ma are certainly going to stay with me for a long time after finishing this book.
I guess the time gets spread very thin like butter over all the world… so there’s only a little smear of time on each place, then everyone has to hurry on to the next bit.
Read if: you want a unique novel that is touching and life-affirming
Image credit: Goodreads
Have you read Room? What did you think, especially about the experience of reading an adult’s book narrated by a 5-year-old? Share your thoughts in the comments!