Review Blog

Feb 24 2011

Room: A novel by Emma Donoghue

cover image

Picador, 2010. ISBN 9780330519014.
(Age 15-Adult) Recommended. Jack seems to be a typical 5 year-old. He watches TV and plays games with his mother. He is bright and energetic, curious and intelligent. But his life is far from ordinary. He is enclosed in a room that measures 12 feet by 12 feet, seeing only his Ma and a frightening night time visitor, Old Nick.
Initially the disturbing aspects of this book put me off. I didn't really want to read about sexual abuse and the difficult life of a young child. However when it was chosen by my book group and also featured as one of the 10 books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults in the ALA 2011 Alex Awards, as well as being on the Man Booker Prize list, I decided to try it . Right from the first page the voice of Jack, the narrator, drew me in and I found that I couldn't put it down. His descriptions of life in the Room, where he has given names to all the objects like Bed and Wardrobe and Floor, because these are his world, are fascinating and give a whole new perspective to everyday things. He thinks that the things he sees on TV are imaginary and his naive descriptions of the lengths that his mother goes to, to protect him from Old Nick, are heart rending.
What I found particularly moving was Jack's description of Ma. She is a survivor, determined that Jack grows up as creative and intelligent as she can under horrific circumstances. She is such a young and defenceless woman but somehow she manages to give her son a life that is interesting and challenging even though they are both captives.
I can imagine that many teens would find this book fascinating. Those who liked the child's voice in The boy in the striped pyjamas by John Boyne or the young girl's narration in The lovely bones by Alice Sebold will find this original story equally as compelling.
Pat Pledger

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