Newest Review: ... 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... more
Thought Provoking Read
Room - Emma Donoghue
Member Name: tommy7
Room - Emma Donoghue
Advantages: Thought Provoking
The story begins on the 5th birthday of Jack, who acts as the narrator of the story. Waking up on his birthday he starts to describe the day like most 5 year olds would. It is only when you get a little further into the story that you begin to appreciate that his circumstances are vastly different to most 5 year olds. Jack has spent his entire life contained in a custom built 11 feet by 11 feet shelter. He shares this with his mother who was kidnapped and imprisoned over seven years ago. This structure is his world, he has never stepped outside of it and the only human he has ever been in contact with is his mother. He believes they are the only real people in the world, outside is Outer Space and the light from the Sky Light is the only glimpse he has ever seen of what lies beyond the four walls.
Being a custom built structure they are almost self-sufficient, having access to a television, a bath, cooking facilities and a toiler. However, they are dependent on their captor providing food on a regular basis and their weekly Sunday treat which can be as basic as pain killers or other essentials.
The early part of the book brilliantly describes how the two people have adapted their lives to dealing with their confinement. The author has really thought things through, especially in all of the games that they play, both of the educational and physical type (as much as you can in the space). From Jack's point of view he appears to enjoy what he considers a normal life. His only discontentment comes from the odd days when he describes his mother as 'gone' but even then he seems aware that this is a temporary state and she will be back to normal the following day.
The book is incredibly depressing though. It is sanitised a little, in that Jack doesn't comprehend a lot of what is going on. He struggles to tell what is real from what is TV. So when, for example, their captor 'visits' his mother Jack hides in the cupboard waiting until he is gone. Jack will then describe confusion over certain events which will be all too obvious to an adult reader. This was a clever way of writing it. It meant that as disturbing and uncomfortable as it was to read it was never described in a graphic way. Indeed, some of the most interesting dialogue in the book comes from the visits. The point that sticks in my mind is when the captor is justifying their living conditions and saying that they have it a lot better than other people in their circumstances.
However, with everything being told from jack's perspective a lot of the language is childish. This made it a more difficult story to get into. Initially the style of writing jarred a lot and I would say it was a quarter of the way into the book before I found I was reading it naturally. It also sets up a difficult position for the author in that she has the principal character failing to understand some things but then grasping far more complex issues. This didn't bother me too much as I viewed it as a necessary contradiction to advance the plot, however, I could see it bothering some readers.
The book moves slowly throughout. I am certain this was an intentional plot device given how time moved so slowly for the main characters. It is further evidence of how well written it is that at no point did the book lag, even when the characters had little to do, there was always a lot to be thinking about. The author does this well, constantly challenging the reader to assess the situation and to reflect on modern life and your own life. Is life better for having all the things we have and crave? What is freedom and at what price? These are just some of the more obvious questions you will ask yourself. There are many more. This is the perfect text for a book club or discussion group, especially in the kindle version where you can see the parts of text that other readers are highlighting.
As the story progressed my worry was how the ending would be handled. I couldn't really see a satisfactory way of wrapping things up which would be true to the story and satisfactory to the reader. Thankfully the ending was absolutely perfect. It was not an ending I had even considered and could not have been more suitable.
I would whole heartedly recommend this book but with a large caveat that I did not find it an enjoyable read. It was a challenging read and a depressing read but not what you would want if your reading is purely for pleasure and entertainment. Especially with the all too recent Fritzl case being in the media, you are only too aware that this is not fiction for all people.
Currently available for £2.51 on kindle or £3.58 in paperback.
Summary: Check it out