Monday, 23 January 2012


by Emma Donoghue

“Room” is a captivating novel, no pun intended. The story is told through the unique perspective of five year old Jack who we quickly learn is living a one room: Room, spelled with a capital “R”, a technique repeated through out the book--there is also “Rug”, “Wardrobe” and “Table”. The exact reason why Jack and Ma are living in Room is not immediately explained, but there is an obvious overtone of fear and evil. Jack describes the living situation and their daily tasks in his childish voice, which is probably what makes the novel so compelling.

Without spoiling any future readers, Ma becomes forced to tell Jack the truth about the outer world and he struggles to grasp why the world functions the way it does. Both Ma and Jack are thrust into the harsh realities of a life outside Room, and it becomes apparent that Jack finds the world colder, preferring to be kept captive in Room.

The book is basically split into two sections that I would explain as: Room and Outer World. The first section is interesting but also cringe-worthy at times, such as when we discover that Jack is five but still breast feeds. He counts the creaks of the bed when their captor comes for his nightly visits. One becomes immersed very deeply in their plight in Room.

The second section would perhaps have been better written from the aspect of Jack AND Ma. Instead, the writer opts to remain in Jack’s perspective and write about his understanding of Ma taking pills and trying to fall asleep forever. Being inside of her head after being freed from their prison would probably have been compelling than carrying on simply as Jack. However, I do understand that the driving force of the book is the attempt to view kidnappings from the eyes of the children born in these situations.
The author Emma Donoghue wrote Room while being influenced by stories such as Jaycee Lee Dugard’s, held captive for eighteen years in a man’s backyard. The crime of kidnapping and imprisonment has been a larger topic in our media due to such stories and this book is a reflection of that. I would recommend “Room” as enthralling novel that is very easy to get pulled into, but be warned: the subject is not light even when told through the eyes of a five year old.

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