I finished this on the 31st January, so I can officially say that I started and ended January 2018 with Emma Donaghue. I watched Room when it was on Amazon Prime a while ago – curled up with a friend slightly hungover from the night before, and it was really good. I don’t usually read thrillers that I’ve watched, but this one seemed far too good to pass up. I’ve been waiting for it to come back to the library and it finally did!
Room is about a boy, five years old, whose entire world is the eleven feet square room he and his mother are kept in. He is smart, knows that things in TV are not real, that things in Room are. Until his Ma tells him that’s not real, that there is a world Outside and he needs to get out, away from Old Nick, and tell Police where they are.
There are two things I particularly loved about this book: the first is that it’s told entirely from Jack’s five year old point of view. I have read some reviews where people found this point of view frustrating, that it can seem tedious how Jack personifies practically everything in his little world, but I think it seems quite appropriate given five-year-old imagination makes everything come to life when parents aren’t watching. It’s interesting seeing Ma through Jack’s eyes, how her frustrations manifest to him compared to how they would if the narrator was Ma.
The second thing I appreciated about this book, was that it doesn’t just end with a happy ever after, it shows how Ma and Jack struggle beyond the walls of Room, how the sensory overload and people not quite understanding how Jack and Ma operate. I’ve seen books before which end when the Police have arrived, when the family have welcomed the stolen back into their arms – but show little of the psychological repercussions, and I appreciated seeing how Jack learnt to adapt to his new environment.
There were parts that I didn’t enjoy, that seemed a bit forced or
I thought Room was well-constructed, hiding the horrors of the world behind a child’s limited understanding and making it worse because for him it is just normal. Jack goes to sleep in Wardrobe because he is safe in there when “Old Nick” comes to visit his mother at nine pm and Jack counts the bed creaks. Jack doesn’t understand, but we as the readers, we do understand what is happening to Ma and it’s horrible. I think it’s made worse by Jack’s frank way of narrating events because this is his life, it’s never ben any different.
I’ve also seen the film, and I remember thinking it was a good film at the time, but the book is infinitely more complex and if you enjoyed the film, you should definitely give the book a read. I highly recommend. I can see why some people don’t like Room, but I can also see completely why people love it. It is full of hope in a way that only children can be, no matter what they face.
Scared is what you’re feeling. Brave is what you’re doing.
Room by Emma Donaghue