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Room is a book that I picked up on a whim in the book shop after finishing my current book and needing something to ready quickly and I must say I'm happy I did.
The story is told through the eyes of 5 year old Jack, who's mother was abducted by 'Old Nick' at as a teenager and who had been kept prisoner ever since, subject to repeated rape and abuse.
Jack who was born inside 'Room' has no idea of the world outside him and he and his 'Ma' as he calls her spend their days making up games and things to do within their prison. Jack's only insight into the outside world is through the TV.
Eventually they manage to escape from the room and the book follows their adjustment to reality and trying to integrate back into society. This is particularly hard for Jack that didn't know this whole world was out there.
This book is hard to read in places as the subject matter is very dark, and while it is thought provoking as it puts you in the victims shoes and makes you think of news stories in the past that I would imagine the book is partly based on. There are sections that made me feel slightly uneasy.
I know some people have commented on the narrative being in the words of a 5 year old taxing however I found it different and interesting as Jack really had no idea what he had been born into and his new experiences outside of the Room put the story into a new context.
I would definitely recommend this book but it is not an easy read and it will likely leave a lasting effect, not for the faint-hearted!
I purchased this book for my kindle after reading numerous reviews on amazon. Initially the fact that it was written in the style of a 5 year old really put me off but I decided to give it ago.
I have to say while the child's narrative had me hooked in the beginning towards the end it became a bit tiresome and repetitive, however given the story line of this book it could have been intentional.
The plot follows the story of a young boy (Jack) and his mother who was abducted by 'Old Nick' at the age of 19. Jack is the product of his mothers continual rape and psychological abuse at the hands of 'Old Nick' and as we learn later her second pregnancy by the monster.
Room is actually a small shed that 'Old Nick' has converted into a sound proof self contained (and very secure) living space. Jack in his wonderful childish naivety believes that room is the only real thing in the world and everything else is made up like TV. During the course of the book we learn about Jack's life and how his mother copes with trying to educate a small boy in such dire conditions.
When Jack's mother formulates a plan to escape from room it is all put on the shoulders of Jack who rises to the task spectacularly.
Once they have been rescued the story then follows the rehabilitation of Jack and his mother. Jack finds it very hard to adjust to begin with but winds up coping with being released better than his mother.
There were bits of this book I didn't like. The narrative, being that of a young child, sometimes lacked the detail that I would have liked from the book. I would also have liked to have heard more from the mothers point of view, especially with regards to her rehabilitation. I cannot personally see myself reading this book again
When this book came out there seemed to be quite a lot of talk about it and how 'different' it was. However, it didn't really seem to appeal to me so I didn't read it straight away. Someone I knew read it and recommend I give up a crime thriller for my next read and give this a go instead. I'm glad I did because I was quite different to the norm and I enjoyed it, though it did take me a little while to get in to it.
Room introduces us to two key characters, who are only properly referred to as Jack and Ma. Jack's just about to have his birthday where he turns 5, and his Ma is helping him celebrate as best she can in Room, their own world that measures 11 feet by 11 feet. The title really gives away the nature of the book and what it's quite 'different' to the norm; it's predominantly set in one room. At first we learn quite a lot about Jack and his mum, their daily routines, what's in the room and how long they've been there. As it progresses, we're introduced to another character, in brief spurts, called Old Nick. He comes and goes to deliver food and the Sunday Treat, such as a bit of chocolate or some medication. Not out of the kindness of his heart, but because he was the monster that put them in the room to begin with.
There is a lot of detail in the first few sections of the novel about the room and it really immerses us in what goes on inside those walls. TV, remote, use of imagination, exercise, teaching, health issues, worries of germs; it's quite intricate and makes use of so many things we tend to take for granted. As times goes on, Jack, whose world is Room, begins to learn there's another world outside there, that he can barely see through the skylight, that's not just made up on TV. From this point we learn more backstory, such as to how they came to be in room and Ma before Room ever existed. I won't say any more on this aspect of the premise as I don't want to ruin it, but it opens up avenues of interest and depth in terms of the storyline and depth of characters.
What sets this apart from other books is not just the concept of being heavily based in one solitary room, but the fact that it's written through the eyes of a 5 year old boy. At first, I found it very difficult to adjust to; the way he referred to objects in a personified way, the structure of sentences, his view of the 'world' in general, took some time for me to get in to. With a little persevere, however, I found that it got a lot easier and I enjoyed the style. It was different and actually quite interesting to see that perspective, and it was very well written by Donoghue because it seemed believable and realistic.
The author was also able to bring the Room to life so that, despite a situation difficult normally to imagine, we got to grips with what it was like. It became easier to envisage and the tie between the characters was almost palpable. The relationship between Jack and his mother was almost a tear-jerker because it was touching yet raw, how she would fight for Jack and put him above everything, and how Jack, despite not understanding how things really were, cared so much about his mum because she literally was everything to him.
The book is fairly continuous, in the sense that it's not divided by chapters. There are some break points as indicated by stars, and it's broken down in to a few sections, but other than that it's quite a non stop flow from start to finish. Again, this was something that took a bit of getting used to for me too as I enjoy chapters in books; I like being able to read small sections and put it down, and I don't really have the same sort of time to dedicate to reading like I used to. However, the storyline was the right kind of pace and nature that stopping mid-way between points wasn't too disruptive; I remembered what had happened and it didn't ruin anything. The pace itself was fairly even for the most part, which may border on slow and boring for some, at least when detailing the Room and daily life. I found it didn't really bore me, however, because it was quite eye-opening and I wanted to learn more. I also wanted to know what started the whole 'Room' way of life, and how things would turn out for the two main characters. The pace picks up in some areas, especially mid-way through and onwards, and although the premise gets more three dimensional, it's really not too taxing on brain cells.
On the cover we're told that this was 'Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2010', and we're also given a rather wordy quote from author Audrey Niffenegger: "Room is a book to read in one sitting. When it's over you look up: the world looks the same but you are somehow different and that feeling lingers for days". On the back is further praise for the novel, including 'Room is one of the most profoundly affecting books I've read in a long time' - John Boyne (who wrote the Boy In The Striped Pajamas). I'd pretty much agree that it's a book which lingers as I found myself thinking about it afterwards and talking about it with someone else who had read it.
It's quite an emotive read if you give it due patience and appreciation, so if you can get in to it then it does have a lot to offer. I read this out of curiosity as I wanted to know what the hype was about; I wouldn't necessarily say it lived up to it in its entirety, but it was definitely worth a read. Once I got in to it, it was enjoyable, different, emotive and engaging, and one that will probably stay with me for a while.
321 pages (hardback). Released 2010.
RRP £8.99, selling on Amazon for £4.99 (paperback).
All the time in the media we hear of stories where a young girl is abducted and imprisoned in a small space in someones house or garden. Its hard to imagine how they might be feeling or how the children that they bear from their captors might. This book does that and does it well. Its not a book suitable for children or even teenagers I think as there are some dark moments and the whole understanding of the emotions is complex.
The story comes from the eyes of Jack, who is the young son, born in the 'room' or modified garden shed. He has never seen the outside world, and doesnt understand it, as Ma says it only exists in the TV. Everyday he has the same routine, exercising, measuring the spaces in the room, playing games and reading his few books. He has never had a hair cut, felt fresh air or seen long distances.
Ma's captor is Old Nick, he abducted her at 19 years old and she dreams of escaping him but cant see how as the door is always locked from the outside and there are no windows. Eventually the time comes and it is all down to Jack to change their future against his will and everything he knows.
The second part of the book looks at the aftermath of what happened and how Jack and Ma cope with living in a bigger space and being around new people, and getting used to being around Mas family. It is a really emotive part of the story as obviously Jack was fathered by Old Nick and some of Mas family find it hard to deal with that.
Overall this book totally gripped me all the way through and I had to read it all in one go as I couldnt put it down. It costs £2.99 from amazon in paperback, but I bought mine in a charity shop for £1.50. Its well worth it and will completely blow your mind at times, the writing flows well and theres not a bit that I wanted to skip.
~From Womb to Room~
Ma loves Jack and Jack loves Ma. Each is the centre of the other's world which might seem natural for a mother and her 5-year old son but in this case it's more than just a cliché. They are each other's only company with the exception of the nocturnal visits from Old Nick, the man who brings them food and other provisions and keeps them alive. Their home is Room - an impenetrable 11 foot by 11 foot modified garden shed that represents the only world that Jack has ever known. We meet him on his fifth birthday when we are introduced to this articulate and imaginative child who lives surrounded by his friends, Wardrobe, Bed, Table, Shelf, Rug and all the other inanimate objects that fill his living space. He and Ma eat simply, recycle and reuse everything, create games that fill their time, make toys, sing songs and tell stories. He reads his few books, does his exercises in the tiny space, watches television where the characters are his friends but all of the things outside Room are just part of Outside, a place his mother has told him isn't real. But Jack is starting to spot the inconsistencies. If Outside isn't real, then where does Old Nick get their provisions? It's all a lot for a young mind to process.
It won't take readers long to piece together the reality of Jack and Ma's life - she was the abducted 19 year old victim of the much older man who locked her up, impregnated her and on whom she and her child now depend for everything. Ma longs to escape but for Jack it's the only world he knows and it's a comfortable place of familiarity and love. When Ma becomes concerned that Old Nick might lose his job and his home, she's fearful for their safety and hatches plans to escape but Jack just wants to put off any action - he's where he knows, where he feels safe surrounded by his things.
~A Play in Three Acts~
The book moves in three stages, each equally compelling to the reader. The first and most initially shocking but also oddly endearing phase is their time in Room and is filled with the minutiae of filling 24 hours a day in a limited space and with restrictions galore. It's a time of innocence - a 'Before the Fall' stage for Jack. The second addresses the first few weeks that Ma and Jack spend in Outside, initially at a care facility where they're being protected from the prying eyes of the paparazzi. Outside is a scary place for Jack - too big, too full of stuff and a place where nobody understands him or he them but at least Ma's there to look after him.
People don't know what to make of him. He looks like a girl with his long hair, the public are fascinated by him but Ma's father can't look Jack in the eye, seeing him not as a grandson but as the physical manifestation of his daughter's years of sexual abuse. The third and saddest section is Jack away from Ma and living with the family who are struggling to understand him just as much as he struggles to fit in with them. Jack finds Outside to be a place of incredible wastefulness and confusion. Can he and Ma get back what they lost when they left Room?
~Jack be Nimble, Jack be Quick~
Room is told entirely in the words and from the point of view of Jack and carries an endearing and sometimes upsetting naivety that's unlike any voice I've seen written on the page. Emma Donoghue has created a character whom it's almost impossible not to relate to and to care about. His strange way of expressing things is consistent with his restricted experience of the spoken word and despite our observation that his world inside Room is horrible, we can still understand why it feels like home to him just as much as we can understand why Ma longs to get out.
~Sadly all too believable~
I've read several first hand accounts by victims of incarceration - for example Natasha Kampusch, locked up by Austrian Wolfgang Priklopil and Sabine Dardenne, one of the few survivors of the Belgian paedophile Marc Dutroux. The interplay between the captives and their captor ring true to the accounts of real survivors - as does the reaction to the post-captivity world. Perhaps the better parallel is with the Austrian Josef Fritzl who locked up his own daughter in his cellar and fathered many children by her, or with the victim found in a garden shed in the USA with her children who'd never known the outside world. It's perhaps the realisation that Room isn't in the realm of fantasy - it's something that happens and is probably (God help the victims) still happening around us now. There are almost certainly women like Ma locked up today whose families think they are dead and who are locked away as the victims of men like Old Nick.
Also very realistic are the reactions of Ma and Jack to the outside world and of the outside world to them. The ghoulish and morbid fascination that the media and the public take in the lives of people like this ring true. What do you do when all you want is to run away and hide but people are waving money under your nose, offering you the wherewithal to give your son the future you dream of for him but only if you take the media intrusion before your story blows over and they move on to the next shock-horror human-interest saga? Do you sell out and if you do, how can you live with yourself? How do you deal with the behaviour of family who thought you were dead and came to terms with it? All these issues and many more are revealed through the observation of the innocent child. I can't fault anything about this wonderful book.
320pp (hardback version)
After reading a review on this book I decided it was time for me to read it to see what all the fuss was about. I had never read any of the author's books before so I was not sure what to expect, but it promised to be a gripping read. It certainly did pull me in, and as it is a relatively short book I finished it within a day as I just could not put it down.
We meet Jack on his fifth birthday. Everything seems normal until you realise there is no one in this room but Jack and his ma along with the few possessions they own. Ma and Jack never leave the room as everything they see on TV and the outside world is not real. This 11 by 11 room is their whole life. Possessions that we would take for granted like a rug or a wardrobe are friends to Jack. But why do they never leave the room? Within the first few pages we start to understand that Jack is not a normal little boy. In fact his whole situation is highly unusual and shocking. As you read on you realise the ins and outs what is going on everything slowly dawns on you.
It's not long before you realise that actually Ma is being imprisoned against her will. She was kidnapped at the young age of 19, and Jack is the result of the abuse she has suffered. While Jack is happy with his life, Ma knows that with circumstances changing she may no longer be able to protect Jack. She makes a plan to escape and this is where the story leads, showing how a poor little boy has his whole world tipped upside down. The book is split in to three sections which work really well. The story takes place over a relatively short time they are indeed three completely different situations for Jack. It may sound like I have given a lot of the story away, but upon reading you will see there is so much more to the book than he basic storyline.
The book is very well written but at first I found it really hard to read. As it is written through the eyes of a five year old boy it is written the way a young child would think. I did find it difficult to really enjoy the book at first having to read back sentences, but a few pages in I began to understand why it was written this way. It became a lot easier to read, and in the end I actually found myself enjoying it this unusual description. While he is explaining things, and questioning the world around him we realise what is really happening so we learn at the same time as he does. The innocence of the little boy shines through, while we are given enough information to make informed guesses at why Ma and Jack are really in this room Jack has no clue.
As Ma and Jack are the only two people in the room, with occasional visits from 'Old Nick' we learn about the characters quickly. We learn how they keep each other sane, and live very carefully recycling anything possible as they own so little. We also learn how Ma had managed to keep Jack as healthy as possible and educated while refined to such a small space. This book shows mothers unconditional love for her child, and sons for his mother. We get to see who Ma is, and the way she is feeling through Jack which I think is enough to know the character. This helps keep details to a minimum making it an easier read mood wise, but still portrays enough detail to know the horrible things she has been through.
The story was very believable I found. It is sad to think that these horror stories really do happen in the world, but from high media cases unfortunately it does. I found the author covered it perfectly as an adult we realise everything that is happening around Jack, but to a naive youngster he really does not have a clue. This means it is not too upsetting to read, but we are given enough detail to feel empathy for the characters. It also touches sensitive issues like adjusting to a new life and the media pushing for their next big story. I do think it was written perfectly and although not based on a real story as such it shows all the issues someone would face in this situation so she has done her research.
I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. Although it is a story of sadness and mistreatment it is also a story of unconditional love and hope. I actually found it really hard to put the book down which was surprising as I expected misery and hate. Instead it is a story based on pure love, and you can't help but love the characters. It really is a book I will never forget, or the empathy I found for Jack and his Ma while reading it. It really does make you take a second look at everything around you and realise how lucky you are. It was strangely uplifting as it showed the raw feelings of such a young child, who was thrown in to a world alien to anyone but him. Room is widely available at all bookshops, but the copy I own is on kindle. I was a little concerned with it being narrated by a five year old, but it works perfectly so that we learn things while Jack does. I would highly recommend this book to anyone, and it is one I can see myself reading again in the future.
It took all the willpower I had not to read up on anything to do with this before reading it. I had noticed it doing the rounds on review sites a couple of years ago when it was first published, but the reality of the content had been well hidden so as not to spoil the story and I suppose in a similar way the reality of the story is one that is so hard to explain in terms of reader emotion that all I can say it go read the book.
Room is about a boy Jack and his ma. Jack has just turned five, and he and his ma live in a room 11 by 11. As the initial story progresses, as told by Jack, we see that by reading between the lines the two of them are actually held captive by a villain known only as 'Old Nick', a room with a skylight that is padded and protected from the outside world so they can't escape; and what's worse is that Jack was born there - he knows no different...
As the story progresses, we get familiar with the humanisation of objects. For instance, the rug on their floor is referred to as Rug and the bed as Bed, Jack sort of treats them as if they were characters in his life. It's clear that ma has looked after him as well as she can given the horrific circumstances, and that the two of them have such love and support for each other. He has been sheltered from the reality of the situation by being told that everything he sees on TV is not real, although the story spends the first half in this situation and the claustrophobia of it all certainly seeps out of the pages. I felt extremely uncomfortable reading it from quite an early stage, and at first I thought this was a horrible book and didn't want to read on.
However I find it hard not to finish a book once I've started and so I continued. The second half of the book deals with adjustment, mainly for Jack but also for ma once they've escaped. I suppose we go through life accepting things the way they are, and never questioning what is considered normal. But imagine for a moment if for the first five years of your life all you thought existed was contained in a room 11 by 11, and that was it!
Inspired by the true story of an Austrian man who kept members of his family locked up for years, including a newborn, Emma Donoghue has penned this superbly. At times I feel it drags, and at others I find it racing away from me. The first 30 or 40 pages were highly interesting as you try and work out what exactly is going on, and then from there and once you realised the situation, it's more of a scene setter and digs in the claustrophobic elements very deeply indeed. The escape and issues surrounding adjustment are also dealt with very well, especially the intrusive nature of the media and the patience required of members of the family who not only thought that ma (whose actual name is never mentioned) had disappeared presumed dead, but did not even know of Jack's existence.
It's a lot to take in, and as soon as I had finished it I almost threw the book down and looked at it mistrustingly. That surely should be the mark of a good book, that you wonder how strings of words on a page can make you feel disoriented and questioning of things you take for granted. It has certainly left me with a feeling I've never felt before, and it's a far cry from the thrillers I'm used to reading where the violence and killing always seem so fictional. I don't know whether this was because it was actually inspired by a true story or not, but there was something so real and so frighteningly possible about it all that it makes you want to go and hug your kids and spend every second of the waking day doing something that means something - enjoying life and learning new things.
Donoghue puts a new spin on life with this, and I think that's how it'll stay with me. Not the sort of book you'll forget in a hurry, whether you want to or not. Powerfully and cleverly written, and I just wonder if it affected me like this, just how it affected her writing it and re-editing it, etc. Powerful stuff, but do I recommend it? Well yes, but it's not for the faint of heart.
Room by Emma Donaghue
I was a bit late coming to this book but read several reviews on various reviews sites about how great it was. My copy is the hardback version and I was lucky enough to pick it up through the Bookcrossing group swap shelf in Derby Westfield centre which seems to be the main way I get my books at present.
On Amazon it is available on Kindle for £1.99, audio for £2.77 and at varying prices for book versions depending on whether you want hardback, paperback new or used.
This story was inspired by that awful news story of the vile Austrian man, who kept the woman and her children locked away all those years but it certainly is very similar to that story.
Emma Donaghue says of the book:
"To say Room is based on the Fritzl case is too strong," she says firmly. "I'd say it was triggered by it. The newspaper reports of Felix Fritzl [Elisabeth's son], aged five, emerging into a world he didn't know about, put the idea into my head. That notion of the wide-eyed child emerging into the world like a Martian coming to Earth: it seized me."
This novel became a number one best seller when it was published through word of mouth advertising and has sold over a million copies. It has won or has been shortlisted for more than a dozen book awards
From the Amazon blurb:
" Room is the story of Ma and Jack. They live in a single, locked room. Five-year-old Jack loves watching TV, but he knows that nothing he sees on the screen is truly real - only him, Ma and the things in Room. Until the day Ma admits there's a world outside . . ."
Ma and Jack live in 'Room' and Jack has just turned five. All he has ever known in hisworld in a room 11 feet by 11 feet with no windows or doors . He has no idea that there is anything else beyond the room. His mother has told him that what he sees on TV is not real nor what he reads in the few books he has in the room. She has done this to protect him from the horror.
Jack is bright and asks lots of questions but his life is obviously very limited and he and ma have a routine that they go through daily. We learn about their lives through Jack who tells the story.
We learn that there is someone called Old Nick who visits and brings them basic food and shopping and occasional treats on Sunday. We also read between the lines that ' Old Nick' is not a nice visitor. Jack is never allowed to see him but he hears things which are obviously him having sex with Ma although Jack is unaware of this.
Ma has very cleverly protected Jack from the horror of their real situation that they are in fact prisoners in this room.
The second part of the room is about the pair of them escaping and what this is like for Jack. How very strange the world is to him and the effect this has on M too.
There are basically two main characters Jack and ma. The story is told by Jack so it is his view of the situation and his interpretation that we read. We can obviously then re interpret Jack's description and understand that in fact pretty awful things are happening.
Ma is described by Jack and her behaviour and reactions are seen through Jack's eyes. When she has a migraine Jack describes this as days when ma is 'not here'. It is very similar to 'The Boy in Striped Pyjamas' in the way the story is told.
This is not an easy thing to carry out as it could be really soppy but it works in this book. We begin to feel we know Jack and his mother even though there's no physical description of either of them until they come out and we hear reports in the news. We gather that Jack is tiny, undernourished and has long hair and ma is also thin and looks drawn but that is about it.
We hear about 'Old Nick' but as a sort of unreal person who is heard but not really seen. Later we meet Ma's parents and family, doctors and nurses and all this is very hard for Jack. They tend to be seen through Jack and once again we know them fleetingly and gradually as Jack becomes more familiar we feel we know them a bit more.
WHAT DID I THINK?
Initially I wasn't sure about the room and the fact that all the objects in the room are given names ie Pencil rather than a pencil; they are almost humanised. I did begin to get a bit 'where's this going?' after a while in the room but then I think the repetitiveness emphasized the claustrophobia of their situation and the monotony of the life that the two of them had in the room.
There was definitely an underlying feeling of menace felt by the reader though we also get the impression that because Ma has created this as Jack's world that he does not feel the menace of the situation.
I had to admire the strength of character of Ma and what am amazing job she did with Jack as he is articulate, can read and write and spell. He knows a lot of things about the outside world although he doesn't know it is real. I sat and thought about how I would have coped with the awful situation and she was only a young girl when taken. She coped largely by putting all her efforts into Jack and protecting him as best she could.
We get to learn of how the Ma feels through conversations she has with Jack. We interpret Jack's descriptions and learn how Ma is feeling and when she does get migraines or is desperately depressed this is described by Jack as 'Ma going away'.
The confusion Jack feels once they are out in the real world is made worse by the fact that he is now having to share Ma who had been his entire world before. His observations also make you aware of things we take for granted as part of our lives which is also an interesting thing to think about.
This is the one of the most unusual books I've read in a long time. There are definite similarities in the telling of the story to 'The Boy in Striped Pyjamas' and the fact that very sinister things are observed by the child but from our knowledge we can interpret then for what is reality.
I think that Ms Donaghue has done a great job. Her writing is sensitive and very cleverly done. It appears simple and at the level of a five year old but in fact is far more clever as we can read those words and understand what is actually real.
I do think that the author has very ably captured the close and unique relationship that Jack and Ma have. From the story we feel that Jack appears reasonably well balanced and certainly has a lot of empathy towards Ma. He relies upon Ma but then she also survives because of Jack in more ways than the obvious one that he keeps her going and gives her a reason to live.
Once they are out in the outside world Jack then has his horizons widened and Ma is able to lean on other people a little. He begins to develop relationships with his family beyond Ma and finds that people are all different, some he likes more than others and they all have different expectations. These are all part of growing up normally but Jack has to learn all this in double quick time.
The book is set in Room but the country it is in I found irrelevant. It could have been anywhere. It is pretty timeless too although obviously modern day because of TV and cars etc but the events could have taken place at any time in the last hundred years or so. It did make me think about how easy this actually would be to happen. How horrifying easy in some huge country like the USA where there is miles of nothing and often neighbours don't know each other. A scary thought.
I was hooked and didn't want to put the book down. It was an easy read as the print was large and the book was not long. There was nothing complicated about the story but boy did it make you think. It was quite disturbing in many ways and for some days after finishing I was thinking about how I would have coped and I don't honestly think I would have.
I would certainly recommend this book. It makes you think and is quite a shocking story but in a way very uplifting too as the strength of character of the young girl who was able to give so much to her son and live as normal a life as possible for him, educate him and teach him is something that requires will power and bravery and selflessness. It does make you think and is a book that you will want to talk about and share with others.
Thanks for reading. This review may be posted on other sites under my same username.
In a recent bid to become more cultured by embracing reading to widen my knowledge and vocabulary, I set about trying to find a book that would really stimulate my mind, yet be fictional and readable at my leisure.
I happened across a review of Room by Emma Donoghue one day last year on the television, and it struck me as a book that I could really get into, due to my interest in psychology during my sixth form years.
Room follows the story of a five-year-old boy called Jack, who knows nothing other than the four walls and the contents of the room he was born in, and his mother, who he refers to as Ma.
He sleeps in a wardrobe, so as to be hidden away from "Old Nick" - their captor, who his Ma has occasional nightly visits from, and in the dark of his wardrobe, little Jack counts the creaks Old Nick makes upon the bed.
Ma has been trapped in the room for seven years - can she and Jack come up with a plan to escape their captor's evil clutches?
Getting into the story
Being written from the perspective of Jack, the book is written in such a way to try and reflect the speech of a young child - not least one who has some stunted development from his unfortunate upbringing. I personally felt this a little difficult to cope with during the first few pages of the book, as it made the text feel a little disjointed.
Over the next few pages I began to settle into the style of writing, and later was able to put it to the back of my mind rather than focus on it too much to fall into the story.
I found Donoghue's descriptions of the characters easy to picture - I envisaged a somewhat ferrel little boy for Jack before beginning to read the story, but despite his appearance he seems well educated and has the sort of manners you might expect one could learn within the confines of his four walls.
Ma was a little harder to picture until further into the book, as you have to wait for Jack to start describing her, which he does every so often to help you imagine her. It seemed to be that her appearance and personality was developed through the repetition of their daily routine, which in turn helps you come to understand their predicament.
Keeping your interest
I have to admit that after a crucial turning point in the book - which I don't think I am ruining by indicating that there is an escape attempt as you might expect - the story takes a bit of a nosedive, and loses the strength of atmosphere that it had before. It all seems to easy, and the reactions I would have expected the characters to have following this escape attempt are really lacking.
As a result I found myself continuing to read more out of habit and wanting to know if there would be a sudden change in their personalities or reactions, rather than wanting to complete the book or see if it ended happily. It just didn't seem to sit right that they adapted so quickly to change.
Following the hype of the review that I mentioned previously, I was left quite disappointed when reading Room. Having studied psychology at school, I had my own ideas and interpretations of how someone who had once lived a free life might respond to a long time in captivity, but was interested to see how the author would interpret the possibility of that same person and their offspring making it out into the real world.
I felt like I was left wanting a lot more from the characters because the way I envisaged the story traveling did not happen. Perhaps if I had allowed myself to be fully immersed in the story I may have been happier with the outcome, but as it was my preconceptions left me disappointed.
I think I would still recommend this to others as it gives you an opportunity to delve into a dark scenario that luckily the majority of us never encounter, but it puts things into perspective and makes you glad of what you have. But I would stress to go into this story with an open mind, as otherwise like me you may not be happy with the outcome of the plot if you have already formed ideas of what you believe should have been the outcome.
I bought Room from a Book Publishers Clearance store, as part of a 3 for £5 deal, so it was a really good deal.
The UK RRP is £7.99, but I think you would likely find it a lot cheaper online rather than the likes of Waterstones or WH Smith.
Published by Picador, the ISBN for this book is: 978-0-330-51902-1.
Also published on Ciao.
Author: Emma Donoghue
First Published: 2010
Jack is a child born into the world as a result of the kidnapping and repeated raping of his mother. Now five years old, he i learning for the first time, that a world exists outside the only four walls he has ever known.
Jack was born, and has lived the first five years of his life in Room. Everything in Room is real, but everything he sees on TV is made up. Outside of Room there is nothing but Outer Space, and Old Nick who brings Jack and his Ma their food. But one day Ma tells him that there is a world outside Room, with people and parks and stores. Jack doesn't believe Ma, but when they plan to make their Great Escape, Jack will experience the world for the first time, and experience so many things he never knew existed.
Initially, I didn't like this book. I read the first thirty pages and put it down as I felt it was too much hard work and the plot wasn't progressing fast enough. However, determined to see it through to the end, I picked up from where I left off and I immediately couldn't put it down! Once you get used to the language and description used by five-year-old Jack, it becomes less difficult to read the novel and easier to enjoy. You start to sympathise with Jack right from the beginning, as you are aware of the horrific circumstances he is living in, even though he isn't.
The main concern I had when I was reading the book was how the plot would progress. Obviously, life in Room is fairly repetitive, and for that reason, the first fifty pages can seem difficult and even boring at times. However, it is worth persevering as the second half of the book is incredibly rewarding. The second half of the book focuses on Jack coming to understand the world around him and experiencing new things. It is touching to witness his first experience of ice cream or a playground.
This book really surprised me as I read it simply because everyone said I should, but I absolutely loved it. I don't normally keep books once I have read them, but with this one I am refusing to part with it! The ending is incredibly beautiful and touching, and, after being almost reduced to tears, I am holding on to my copy so I can experience it over and over again. I would honestly encourage everyone to read this book more than anything I have ever recommended before; it is such a versatile book that doesn't fit into any genre, but has the ability to appeal to everyone.
I'd love to hear the opinions of anyone who has read it or wants to read it!
Favourite Quotes: 'At TV time she chooses the wildlife planet, there's turtles burying their eggs in sand. When Alice gets long with eating mushroom, the pigeon's mad because she thinks Alice is a nasty serpent trying to eat her pigeon eggs. Here come the turtle babies out of their shells, but the turtle mothers are gone already, that's weird. I wonder if they meet sometime in the sea, the mothers and the babies, if they know each other or maybe they just swim on by.' (p. 42)
'Baked beans keep me going all right but green beans are my enemy food. Grandma made them a few dinners ago and I just pretended I didn't see them on my plate. Now I'm in the world, I'm never going to eat green beans again. (pp. 347-8)
Room by Emma Donoghue.
Room is an unusual fiction story yet sadly has the ability to be true in some respects as we occasionally hear in the news and is apparently based on the news story of Josef Fritzl.
The authors ability to transport the reader into the mind of a five year old boy is uncanny. Not only that but a child who has only ever been inside one room.
The language used and the portrayal of simple items in a way that you have never thought of is exceptional and an intriguing look at the concept of child development in the world.
I found the book simple to understand, partly due to the fact it is written from the child perspective but also because the author keeps the story in a tight confinement of the room and the few limits which would be talked of beyond it. You may think that for a reader and a book of 400 pages based on one room and a few surrounding topics would be boring after a while, however this is not the case. There was only one brief part in the book near the end of the first chapter where I thought maybe this would be the case, but quickly I was involved in another section of the unfolding storyline and I never looked back and in the end found it hard to put down.
From an early start you realise they are being kept in a single room against there will. It isn't until about a third of the way through though that you find out how that happened to being with.
The transformation that Jack makes through the book is amazing and shocking as it would be to discover that there is an actual world outside or Room and that it is not just television make believe.
The end of the story which I will not reveal is a simple one. It was not exactly as I expected, I was expecting the plot to develop on a little more with what happens, saying that I do feel it was a fitting end to the book.
A book I recommend and was also short listed for the Man Booker Prize of 2010. RRP £7.99 on www.ebay.co.uk it can range from 99p second hand to £15. On www.Amazon.co.uk 50p to £8 books, £4 audio book and £2 on Kindle at the time of writing.
The review maybe posted on dooyoo and ciao under the same username
My flatmate lent me this book after I had complained about having nothing new to read. From my first quick look at both the cover picture and the blurb (which is very short and vague) I decided this wasn't really my thing, although I still decided to read on. I would like to say it is an easy book to get in to (it's wrote from the point of view of a five year old boy, Jack) but I found his slightly mixed up "room" talk hard to follow. Also nothing really came clear at all until nearing the end of the book. However it is towards the end of the boom when things really pick up and get interesting! I felt it was a real shame though as whilst everything was rounded up and the story does have a clear ending, it seems like it was rushed by the author. Overall I would say it's worth reading as it is such an unusual plot and subject matter and that I did enjoy it, although I would have liked an extra few chapters just to feel like I had actually finished the whole story.
If I had too choose one book to sum up my favorite of the year then this is the book I'd choose. It's not necessarily the best fiction, not have I read anything else by the author before. I even chose to read it mainly because I needed a book for a train journey over the Christmas period and I knew it was one I would review afterwards. So my choice doesn't seem that considered since I'm a voracious reader and can get through up to 10 books a week. I started reading it on the train to visit my family (my grandson is named Jack but this is co-incidental) and had to stop reading except at bedtimes. I read the end about 10 minutes before I returned on the train so it wasn't ideal reading conditions either, but I took in everything and afterwards I'll tell you why.
Jack has just turned five and has some questions for his ma, (as he calls her), he knows he went to bed 4 years old and woke up 5, but before he was three, then two and finally one. Was he minus years before that? It's a strange but fairly common thing to question at that age, most kids have a concept of time, but Jack is not a normal kid. His world is 11 feet by 11 feet and hasn't any windows or doors that he can enter or exit. There is 'Skylight' which allows some natural light in but shows nothing of the outside world. In fact Jack lives with his ma in Room, the entire universe except for the characters in books or on TV, which his ma tells him, is not real.
He's a bright, inquisitive child, who can tell the time by ma's Watch, and then there is Wardrobe where Jack sleeps when 'Old Nick' visits Bed. Old Nick comes and goes but since Jack doesn't see him and he isn't interested in Jack then the question of where he comes from and goes back to doesn't disturb the world that Ma has cleverly constructed for Jack to live in. As we learn about Jack's world through his narrative voice the reader gets to learn that something is definitely very different and it isn't long before we know that ma has been locked in this place where she's been for seven years and where Jack was both conceived and born. I'm not plot spoiling since it's part of the start of the story and also is mentioned in the rave reviews this book has received.
The rest of the book deals with what happens when Jack finds out that Outside is a real place and Room is not the whole world. How will he deal with the reality when he's never seen anything different, or did more than crawl, run around the furniture and has skin untouched by weather? How will his mother cope with freedom after bringing up a child in such circumstances? This is what grabs the reader's attention and keeps it focused on the narrative; you just want to know the outcome.
Naturally this is very much a character-driven novel with the focus on Jack's observations. It's difficult to think like a child again let alone write convincingly in a way you image a child's mind works, yet it can be done, the author does it without a single moment that sounds 'off', to me it was a boy called Jack speaking to me. The use of capitalizing each object in the Room shows how important this place is to the boy and how his mother manages some sense of individuality despite the claustrophobic atmosphere. That the boy is articulate, can read and write and spell along with knowing things better than some adults is down to the mother who we learn was taken at the age of nineteen. How did she cope without going mad?
I've read only a few reviews on this book and naturally I did consider if the story was one-sided since we never get to learn of how the woman feels only through what conversations she has with Jack, though fortunately they are frequent enough to learn a lot about her. Without any distractions from an ordinary life then her son becomes her universe although she does get desperately depressed and through Jack's observations we again find out what happens when Ma 'goes away' in her head. That one thing alone made me think about coping alone. Jack is able to pour milk and get cereal. He can read to stay amused and sleep when there is nothing else to do. There is another thing he does to get by but I don't want to spoil that part of the book.
Naturally there are other characters later on yet the book is a commentary through Jack and if this idea seems impossible then you haven't been in the company and the trust of a young child who is trying to work out how things are done in the world and what is his place in things. Children are selfish on the whole and this is natural. Until they are old enough to understand empathy they are the center of the universe and we adults are charged with keeping their worldview a wholesome one. For me that summed up part of what the author was trying to do with her characters, although you can read so much into the book.
My Personal Thoughts.
This is the most unusual book I've read in a long time and one that seems to be unique. The writing is beautiful throughout with the author's keen insight into the relationship with a boy and his mother set against what would happen if their whole world were reduced to one room. No wonder the character of Jack thinks of Room as a noun. This helped to set the child's character slightly apart from his mother and although Jack does think of them as a unit, he does see the difference when his Ma retreats into a dark depression.
From the narration Jack appears reasonably well balanced and certainly has a lot of empathy towards his Ma. This grows more as the story unfolds. This is when the heartache sets in and the bond between mother and son is put under almost unbearable pressure. Yet Jack is the salvation of his mother, something which all mums will understand when they read certain passages. It started me thinking, especially since I've been bonding more with my grandson Jack in the past year. Together we have our 'talk time' when I've read him his bedtime story. This is important to both of us and I could see the issues the author was perhaps addressing in her book. As a mother and child unit starts out almost isolated, so it begins to open out as the family and friends start to become more important. She demonstrates this so well that it's hardly noticed.
The other thing that struck me was the fact that I didn't think of where the book was based until almost half-way through, it could have been any country in the English-speaking world, it turned out to be America. That takes a lot of doing since I can usually spot an American phrase, perhaps that was another clever use of words by the author.
In the end though I just wanted to find out what was going to happen to the mother and son. I really felt it hard to put the book down and wondered if I should have put it aside until I could read it straight through. But by reading a bit and absorbing that part I thought more about the story and less about the technique, although it's a brilliant idea executed with superb precision and almost effortless ease of writing. Most people want to discuss the book with someone and I found this as well. I found it incredibly moving, uplifting at times, haunting at others, a real joy to read and one that left me thinking about it for days after. I recommend you read it wholeheartedly. I would also say that you shouldn't think of this as a tragic book, it's sad in parts and what happened to the mother was unthinkable, yet the mother/child bond redeems it and the book turns out as a triumph.
I managed to pick my copy up in a charity shop for £1.50 but would have paid the full price because this is one I'll keep coming back to read again. At 399 pages it's a perfect read for a day of curling up and doing nothing else.
Thanks for reading.
The blurb and cover of this book don't give much away about what the book is about but after this topic had been discussed recently in the news and the book had been shortlisted for an award I decided to give this book a try.
The book is written in an unusual way through the eyes of the little boy who lives with his mother inside 'room'. The boy tells the story in his own way which made it impossible for me to put the book down. As the child was born and grows up in this room he calls all the objects their name, for example, its not THE room but room as the boy sees this place and the things in it as being 'things', having never seen the outside world or even left the room in which they live. The book tells the story of the boy and his mothers life within this room and 'the man' who comes to see his mother. The story is told as the child sees daily life happening and he talks about 'the man' who says that he has to go into the cupboard when he arrives.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and found the way it was written helped me to see the story from the childs eyes rather than his mothers opinion of the situation. I think that it is a unique writing style which I liked.
I recommended this book to my mother, who began to read and became frustrated with the style of writing where the child continually talks about the objects in a manner that makes them sound as 'beings', therefore clearly this book may not be to everyone's taste. However, a few of my friends read this book after I had finished and also enjoyed it.
As someone else has already said, the blurb and picture on the front of this book don't give much away at all.
I found this book to be a gripping read, but in some ways it was slightly disappointing too.
I would like to have learned more about 'The Man' and about what happened to Jack & his Mum after their escape.
That said, it is a book that I found hard to put down. I think it took me about 6 hours in total to read it, and I have recommended it to several others since.
There were times it brought tears to my eyes, and times it had me cheering, there were also times it had me on the end of my seat urging the characters on.
All in all, it's a brilliant read and would make a good edition to any book collection.
I look forward to hearing more from this author.