Book Review: Room – Emma Donoghue

Title: Room: A Novel
Author: Emma Donoghue
ISBN: 9780316098335
Pages: 336
Release Date: September 13, 2010
Publisher: Little, Brown and Co.
Genre: Literary Fiction
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary:

Five-year-old Jack lives in Room with his mother.  In Room, there is Chair and Bed and Wardrobe and Meltedy Spoon.  Outside Room is Outer Space.  Old Nick comes from Outer Space and brings food and Sunday treats.  Jack has lived in Room all his life and doesn’t believe there is anything outside. 

Review:

Room is an incredibly difficult novel to describe or discuss without giving away key plot points, hence the extremely sketchy summary above that only reveals information from the first few pages of the book.  Other summaries (including the publisher’s) reveal a lot of information, but this is a book that works best if you don’t know at all what to expect.

Jack’s five-year-old voice definitely takes some getting used to.  He’s a smart child, advanced educationally because he has spent so much time one on one with his mother.  However, he isn’t socialized at all, clearly, since he has spent his entire life in Room.  He’s never difficult to understand, though sometimes it takes some slow reading to comprehend exactly what he’s talking about.  Once the reader adjusts to his method of speaking, though, the novel goes incredibly fast.  Donoghue did an amazing job writing the voice of a five-year-old.  He’s never unbelievably precocious and his thoughts are simple and precise. 

This is an incredibly disturbing and emotional book because of what Jack and his mother go through.  Jack’s Ma was my age, so I could really relate to her and what she felt.  Her experiences, though, were so foreign to me.  I couldn’t imagine being stuck inside a 500 square foot room for seven years of my life. It was completely horrifying, and I really admired her for how well she held herself together.  It often seemed like she didn’t have any strength left, yet she always found something for Jack.  He gave her a purpose in life.  Their love for each other was pure and sweet, and it was clear that no matter what they were put through, they would be okay if they were together. 

I have to admit, while I did like this book, I would have enjoyed it more had I witnessed it from Jack’s mother’s point of view.  While Jack’s voice was very well-written, it was his mother and her traumas that really intrigued me.  I would have loved to know more about her psychological issues from the trauma she experienced.

I can’t talk much more about Room without discussing the specifics of the novel, so I’ll have to leave you with this sketchy review.  I did really love this book; I was planning on reading it slowly, over multiple days, and that worked for the first fifty pages.  Once I got to page one hundred, though, I found that I couldn’t put it down.  I had to know what happened, to know that Jack and his Ma would be okay.  This was an exceptional novel, and I can’t wait to explore Donoghue’s backlist.

Comments

  1. I read Room yesterday and absolutely tore through it. It was so upsetting that I never want to read it again, but I thought she did an amazing job.

    I read Slammerkin years ago and thought it was excellent – it’s completely different, but similarly well-crafted.

  2. I read Room yesterday and absolutely tore through it. It was so upsetting that I never want to read it again, but I thought she did an amazing job.

    I read Slammerkin years ago and thought it was excellent – it’s completely different, but similarly well-crafted.

  3. This is the next book on my TBR list. It looks incredible and horrifying. Thanks for the lack of spoilers in the review!

  4. This is the next book on my TBR list. It looks incredible and horrifying. Thanks for the lack of spoilers in the review!

  5. It is great that you loved it, but I don’t agree with you about it being better from Ma’s point of view. I thought that Jack’s innocence really added to the depth of emotion. It wouldn’t have been the same if we’d been allowed to see the adult’s perpective.

    I recently read Forgetting Zoe which is essentially the same story, but told from the point of view of the abductor and his victim. It was a very different book, lacking the power of the emotion present in Room. If you think you’d like to read a book from the adult perspective then I recommend Forgetting Zoe, but I think you’ll find that Emma Donoghue has nailed this subject with Room.

  6. It is great that you loved it, but I don’t agree with you about it being better from Ma’s point of view. I thought that Jack’s innocence really added to the depth of emotion. It wouldn’t have been the same if we’d been allowed to see the adult’s perpective.

    I recently read Forgetting Zoe which is essentially the same story, but told from the point of view of the abductor and his victim. It was a very different book, lacking the power of the emotion present in Room. If you think you’d like to read a book from the adult perspective then I recommend Forgetting Zoe, but I think you’ll find that Emma Donoghue has nailed this subject with Room.

  7. It’s nice to hear a positive review for this book. I have one friend who read it and couldn’t get past the child was still so “attached” to his mother at age 5. Looking forward to checking it out.

  8. It’s nice to hear a positive review for this book. I have one friend who read it and couldn’t get past the child was still so “attached” to his mother at age 5. Looking forward to checking it out.

  9. I definitely need to read this book. It sounds so good, and scarily relevant given the events in the news in the past couple of years. Thanks for the insightful review!

  10. I definitely need to read this book. It sounds so good, and scarily relevant given the events in the news in the past couple of years. Thanks for the insightful review!

  11. This sounds like a wonderful book, though at this point I’ve seen it in so many places I think I might just wait a year before reading it…

  12. This sounds like a wonderful book, though at this point I’ve seen it in so many places I think I might just wait a year before reading it…

  13. I don’t think it would have had the depth and nuance if Ma would have narrated it. One of my favorite things about the novel was that it was Jack’s story, but the reader is able to understand so much of Ma’s life in ways he doesn’t. Regardless, I’m looking forward to devouring Donoghue’s backlist too, and I’m pulling for Room to win the Booker Prize this year!

  14. I don’t think it would have had the depth and nuance if Ma would have narrated it. One of my favorite things about the novel was that it was Jack’s story, but the reader is able to understand so much of Ma’s life in ways he doesn’t. Regardless, I’m looking forward to devouring Donoghue’s backlist too, and I’m pulling for Room to win the Booker Prize this year!

  15. I loved this book so very much and though Jack’s voice took a little getting used to, I ended up feeling very comfortable with him as the narrator. I also had a lot of questions about Ma’s mental state though, and wondered how she managed to keep herself sane in that horrible captivity. It was a great book that I gulped down in a few hours. Fabulous review. I think mine might be a little spoilery, so I am going to have to work on that!

  16. I loved this book so very much and though Jack’s voice took a little getting used to, I ended up feeling very comfortable with him as the narrator. I also had a lot of questions about Ma’s mental state though, and wondered how she managed to keep herself sane in that horrible captivity. It was a great book that I gulped down in a few hours. Fabulous review. I think mine might be a little spoilery, so I am going to have to work on that!

  17. I really have to get my hands on a copy of this book – time to get up on SwapTree and BookMooch. 🙂

  18. I really have to get my hands on a copy of this book – time to get up on SwapTree and BookMooch. 🙂

  19. I hope to read this one soon! I glad to hear that Jack’s voice is believable; that’s important to me, especially if a book has a less typical narrator (like a 5-year-old child!). You managed to confirm for me my decision to read the book without telling me anything about the plot…impressive!

  20. I hope to read this one soon! I glad to hear that Jack’s voice is believable; that’s important to me, especially if a book has a less typical narrator (like a 5-year-old child!). You managed to confirm for me my decision to read the book without telling me anything about the plot…impressive!

  21. I absolutely loved this book too! I noramlly dislike books written from a childs point of view as the narrative can often make me cringe but, you’re right that Donoghue does this so well.

  22. I absolutely loved this book too! I noramlly dislike books written from a childs point of view as the narrative can often make me cringe but, you’re right that Donoghue does this so well.

  23. I’m really looking forward to this book but definitely know a lot more than I like to going in to a book. I hope that doesn’t affect my enjoyment of it.

  24. I’m really looking forward to this book but definitely know a lot more than I like to going in to a book. I hope that doesn’t affect my enjoyment of it.

  25. I just won this book from Frances, so hopefully I’ll be reading it soon. I think narration from the viewpoint of a five year old was risky, but genius if done well (obviously she pulled it off). Five year olds are not easy to figure out, let along portray a horrifying trauma through their eyes.

  26. I just won this book from Frances, so hopefully I’ll be reading it soon. I think narration from the viewpoint of a five year old was risky, but genius if done well (obviously she pulled it off). Five year olds are not easy to figure out, let along portray a horrifying trauma through their eyes.

  27. Interesting idea about having the mother narrate b/c I would have liked her side of the story too. Although I have to say that I loved this book just the way it was.

  28. Interesting idea about having the mother narrate b/c I would have liked her side of the story too. Although I have to say that I loved this book just the way it was.

  29. I’ve really been looking forward to reading this one, especially after finishing your review, but I am concerned that it’s going to deeply bother me! I’ll never know until I try, though. 🙂

  30. I’ve really been looking forward to reading this one, especially after finishing your review, but I am concerned that it’s going to deeply bother me! I’ll never know until I try, though. 🙂

  31. I preferred the narration by Jack. I think hearing the story from “Ma” would have been too over-the-top for me.

    A lot of the book worked so well because Jack was so innocent about things that were happening. Ma would not have been quite so innocent (although yes, her story would have had a different impact)

    I loved this book. It was difficult, yes. I tore through it and it is still affecting me.

  32. I preferred the narration by Jack. I think hearing the story from “Ma” would have been too over-the-top for me.

    A lot of the book worked so well because Jack was so innocent about things that were happening. Ma would not have been quite so innocent (although yes, her story would have had a different impact)

    I loved this book. It was difficult, yes. I tore through it and it is still affecting me.

  33. Have to read it. Seriously, HAVE to. Gonna download it. I can feel the itch beginning.

  34. Have to read it. Seriously, HAVE to. Gonna download it. I can feel the itch beginning.

  35. Sounds like a truly difficult read, not one I’m up for right now. Maybe eventually.

  36. Sounds like a truly difficult read, not one I’m up for right now. Maybe eventually.

  37. I want to read this bad soooooo bad!

  38. I want to read this bad soooooo bad!

  39. This one has had rave reviews everywhere, glad you liked it too!
    I will get to it too someday!

  40. This one has had rave reviews everywhere, glad you liked it too!
    I will get to it too someday!

  41. Just the concept makes my skin crawl. I’m glad this is good, because it sounds interesting, but it also sounds horrifying.

  42. Just the concept makes my skin crawl. I’m glad this is good, because it sounds interesting, but it also sounds horrifying.

  43. I just won a copy of this book and am so excited to read it from all the wonderful reviews. Good to hear you enjoyed it as well!

  44. I just won a copy of this book and am so excited to read it from all the wonderful reviews. Good to hear you enjoyed it as well!

  45. I have 50 pages left of my current book, then I will be reading Room. I can’t wait!

  46. I have 50 pages left of my current book, then I will be reading Room. I can’t wait!

  47. I just finished ROOM and went looking for reviews; yours is the second or third I’ve read now. I can’t adequately describe how much I loved this book. It moved me to tears twice but it was the sweetness and innocence of Jack that caused me to get emotional, not the horrors or the realities of their situation. I would so love to discuss this book with my book club.

  48. I just finished ROOM and went looking for reviews; yours is the second or third I’ve read now. I can’t adequately describe how much I loved this book. It moved me to tears twice but it was the sweetness and innocence of Jack that caused me to get emotional, not the horrors or the realities of their situation. I would so love to discuss this book with my book club.

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