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
Could you survive years in a locked room?
Room - Emma Donoghue
Member Name: catsholiday
Room - Emma Donoghue
Advantages: Well written and holds your attention and makes you think
Disadvantages: None for me
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.
Summary: A disturbing and thought provoking book