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
Life, but not as we know it...
Room - Emma Donoghue
Member Name: pmcds
Room - Emma Donoghue
Advantages: Powerful, interesting spin on what we take for granted
Disadvantages: Scarily possible and claustrophobic at times
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.
Summary: Powerful psychological tale of a boy who is born in confinement and has to adjust at the age of 5