Emma Donoghue: Room

This book seems to be everywhere at the moment; on Twitter and social media, in the cinema… I first heard about this book through a movie trailer when watching another film at the cinema. It intrigued me. I liked the concept and the suspense that exuded from the cinematic effects they were using to advertise the film – it was something that I wanted to watch. But, having been on Twitter awhile and following all the major publishing companies, I was aware that it was a book first and foremost – so I vowed I would read the book first, and go from there.

Room is a work of contemporary fiction that follows two characters, Ma and Jack, as they survive in Room – a small shed-like structure that houses the two of them as well as bedroom, bathroom, kitchen etc. It is all that Jack has ever known, but it becomes apparent that the reason behind them being stuck in Room are not good. Old Nick kidnapped Ma at a young age and has held her captive, and through her time there Ma has built a life for Jack as best as she can, but now she hopes to build a better life, on the Outside. The Room is about Ma and Jack’s escape from Room and their journey to adapt back into the real world; a concept that is a lot harder for little Jack.

Truth be told, I found this book a little hit and miss. It had its good points and its bad points in terms of pacing, writing style, structure and so on. But it is a book that I feel highlights an important topic that many people may not understand or have been privy to. With that in mind, the way that Donoghue presents this is brilliant. The whole narrative is told from the viewpoint of Jack with childlike, simple, innocent language that at times can seem a bit disjointed and confusing – particularly in the beginning when getting used to this writing style. It adds a fresh perspective on a world that Jack deems normal and at the same time, makes the character of Ma extremely relatable through Jack’s narrative. I found it easy to understand why Ma was getting frustrated, angry, upset and the little things that Jack was or wasn’t doing even though the scenario that they were in holds little reality to many readers.

Structure was my main bad point when reading Room.Though the structure is entirely in chronological order, I found the beginning and ending slightly lacking in appeal. It felt a bit slow and repetitive with the conflicts between Ma, Jack, and Old Nick and, though I understand that this is needed to show the reality of their living conditions, it didn’t really hold my attention as well as I felt it should. I felt that it was only when the characters were planning and taking action with their chance at escape that I grew more interested in the novel. There was more suspense and fear that gripped me and pulled me into the book and made me question the chain of events; coupled with the simplistic narrative of Jack, this event within the narrative became even more thrilling and full of tension than if it was told through Ma’s perspective.

I would definitely say it was a good book, but I wasn’t fully taken with it. The concept is brilliant, but – as is obviously the case considering there is a film – I believe it would hold more filmic qualities and bring more suspense, tension, fear, innocence etc to the narrative than it has through writing.


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