Emma Donoghue - Room // Review.


The first half of Donoghue's 2010 novel, Room, is set entirely in an 11ft square room, to which the protagonist, Jack, is being held captive. Jack has never left the room where he was born and is constantly reminded of this, by the blood stains on the bed, and rug. However, Jack doesn't realise that he is being held captive, and despite his mothers attempts to tell him, he is only interested in asking her questions about the TV world.

The novel, starting on his fifth birthday is written from Jacks point of view, from whom we discover through his words, and conversations with his mother, that they are prisoners in 'Old Nick's' shed. Through Jack's comprehension of events, his 'Ma's' words, and the readers ability to read between the lines, it becomes apparent that Jacks mother was abducted when she was nineteen and has been used as a sex slave for almost eight years.

Though it sounds quite dark, the language used makes the story feel lighter than it actually it is. The reader is given a different aspect to the world of captivity, through the eyes of someone who doesn't even understand what is happening around him.  "... When old Nick makes the bed creak" "...I always have to count until he makes that gaspy sound, and stops"

Through Jack's use of words, the reader can tell that his mother has devoted the past five years, to teaching him to the best of her ability, and it becomes apparent as the novel progresses that he is actually quite intelligent. She teaches him about iconic points in history, through the use of stories, and they play educational games such as parrot. If it wasn't for the underlying story of them being trapped inside a shed, with an electronic coded door, and no windows, you could quite easily perceive Jack as a normal little, five-year-old boy.

After they escape, the novels setting moves to the outside world; a police station, a hospital, Jacks grandparents house etc... and I feel as if this weakens the earlier tone established in the novel. I also feel that the latter half of the novel isn't believable as a whole, especially when compared to that of the first. Jack is a boy who has never had any contact with the outside world, or people for that matter, and it seems as if he doesn't even care. He notices how different it is, and the large amounts of people, but that's it; you would expect him to be a little more frightened and confused.

The introduction of more characters has both a negative and a positive affect on the novel. Jack is having to deal with all these new people, and remember all their names, which is confusing for any child, but this draws attention away from the dynamic between Jack and his mother. The novel doesn't regain the familiar mother and son dynamic until the end where they move into their own apartment and are once again on their own. However, the use of unfamiliarity within the text, works well for both the reader and the characters, as it forces the reader to feel the uncertainty that Jack is feeling, without making it obvious. (Well done Emma Donoghue!)

I was struck by how in the novel, the public automatically assumed that Jack was retarded, and his mother was questioned on her parenting skills, however, it can't be argued with, as in today's society that is the exact thing a tabloid newspaper would write, (*cough cough* Daily Mail...) It was also concerning that people began to ask Jack for his autograph as if he were a celebrity, but both of these points show how petty the media are, and the general consensus for the people of today. (Another well done for you Donoghue!)

After reading the novel, I found myself asking what would I do if I were in that situation, and some of my answers were quite disturbing. I measured out an 11ft square space, and felt quite sick at the size Jack and his Ma had to live in. I know that this particular story is a work of fiction, but these things do happen, and I honestly can't stop myself from thinking about the people that are forced to live in these conditions.

I would definitely recommend reading this novel. Having read the entire novel in just six hours, I can honestly say that it is an easy read; although there aren't any chapters, the different parts have been clearly outlined and labelled, enabling the reader to have an idea of what is happening. I would very much like to see a follow-up novel, perhaps from the mothers point of view, as that way it can create comparisons on the events that took place, as well as knowing her thoughts and feelings. Donoghue is incredibly talented, creating an interesting and unique novel, that was shortlisted for the Man Booker prize in 2010, and I look forward to finding out what else she has written.

you can buy the book right HERE, and then let me know what you think.

Peace out xoxo


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1 comment

  1. I love this book, I've lent it out to loads of my friends x


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