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The World In The Confines Of 4 Walls
Room - Emma Donoghue
Member Name: cazkins
Room - Emma Donoghue
Advantages: Interesting perspective, a little different to the norm, vivid, engaging & emotive
Disadvantages: Takes a little while to get in to, quite a slow pace for some
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).
Summary: A more 'novel' novel that sticks with you after reading...