My review of Room by Emma Donoghue

ROOM - Emma DonoghueImagine growing up in a world that’s limited to an 11 x 11 room. All you know is the objects that you have, and your Ma who raised you.

Room is told from five year old Jack’s point of view, which definitely took some getting used to. Throughout the first half of the story we repeatedly get to experience Jack and Ma’s routine Room. Ma, who has been in Room for seven years, religiously makes sure Jack is fed, has his (limited) exercise, learns his math and reading, and watches one hour of TV each day.

Ma is a good mother, given her situation. You can tell she’s emotionally damaged from her ordeal, but she does everything to make sure Jack is as educated and healthy as she can. With the TV in the room, she attempted to protect Jack by created a fantasy world, where everything in Room was real, and everything outside was TV. She also physically protected him, from the man who visited every night.

Old Nick, as Jack calls him, is the man. He brings food, Sunday treat, and stays for the night. When he comes, Ma makes sure Jack is already in Wardrobe. Before sleep each night, Jack counts the number of creaks in his head. Old Nick makes Jack’s Ma upset.

It wasn’t until the second half that I really became enthralled with the book and couldn’t put it down. I felt like I was really in the head of Jack, and at times was frustrated like he was when things didn’t go his way, or seemed completely foreign to him. At the same time, I felt Donoghue did a fantastic job of conveying what was happening to the two of them through things like Ma’s behaviour and Jack’s innocent observations.

My biggest qualm with the book would be the sometimes inconsistent writing style. It seems Donoghue tried too hard to capture the vocabulary of a five year old, mixing ridiculous word combinations with amazing vocabulary. Jack was relatively well-educated by Ma, and had television to teach him proper sentence structure as well, but so often he would essentially come up with jibberish – maybe chalk that up to his living situation, I don’t know, but it made the reading experience very choppy at times.

If you’re looking to pick this one up, be patient and you won’t regret it. While the basic premise is something we’ve all seen in news headlines, it’s a unique take on writing and you have to give it to Donoghue for attempting it. I quite enjoyed Room and the story really stuck with me – so much so, I had to take a few days afterward to get my mind right to write this post and even pick up another book. I give it a 4/5.

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