Jack is five, and excited about his birthday. He lives with his Ma in Room, which has a locked door and a skylight, and measures eleven feet by eleven feet. He loves watching TV, and the cartoon characters he calls friends, but he knows that nothing he sees on screen is truly real – only him, Ma and the other things in Room. Until the day Ma admits that there’s a world outside…
Told in Jack’s voice, Room is the story of a mother and son whose love lets them survive the impossible. Unsentimental and sometimes funny, devastating yet uplifting, Room is a novel like no other.
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When I first heard about Room, I admit I was a little hesitant to read it, worried that I would find the subject matter unbearably sad and depressing. I had also heard of it being written in the special language shared between the characters Jack and Ma and was wary of it resulting in something gimmicky.
It turns out my initial reservations were completely unfounded.
Donoghue has achieved the seemingly unachievable – conveying this story with a genuine sense of heart without a hint of indulgence or cliché sentimentality.
The unique language spoken by Jack (the narrator) is the key to the success of this novel. This language forms the basis for what is intentionally very spare prose. The writing style mirrors beautifully the stark circumstance of the characters, and against that back drop, the simple yet indescribable bond between mother and son shines through.
In Room, Emma Donoghue has captured the uncompromising honesty and optimistic curiosity that exists only in the mind of a child.
On a broader level, this is a story about the things people can endure when they have clarity of purpose. This book has the power to shape thinking.
The moment I began reading, I could not drag myself away. Room is a book that lingers and I am the better for having read it.
A very big thank you to Nancy at The Year In Books for sending me a copy of this novel – a true gift.
Note: Several book reviewers whose literary opinion I hold in high regard did not enjoy this book. This appears to be one of those love it or hate it novels.
BOOK RATING: The Story 4.5 / 5 ; The Writing 5 / 5 — Overall 4.75
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Genre: Literature, Drama
UPDATE: Room has now been made into a movie starring Brie Larson.
About the Author, Emma Donoghue
Emma Donoghue (born 24 October 1969) in Dublin is a playwright, literary historian and novelist now living in Canada. Her 2010 novel Room was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize 2010 and an international bestseller. See Emma Donoghue’s website for more biographical information and her collection of novels and short stories.
Emma Donoghue’s Room has been shortlisted for the 2011 Orange Prize.