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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Room by Emma Donoghue

Posted by Irish in Uncategorized6 Comments

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

Source: Received from publisher for review
Publication Date: 13 Sept 2010
Series or Standalone: Standalone
ISBN: 0316098337
Format: Paperback (ARC)
Pages: 336
Emma Donoghue – Blog
Emma Donoghue – Twitter
Place(s) Traveled to: Any town, Anywhere
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

First Line: Today I’m five.

I first started to hear about Room by Emma Donoghue during Book Expo America in May 2010. It seemed that everyone was talking about it and I was sad not to have been able to pick up a copy for myself. So when I got one in the mail later on that summer for review I was very excited. The book has a unique concept in which the story is told from the point of view of 5 year old Jack. What makes Jack so unique is that his first 5 years have been spent in a room the size of a garden shed with his mother. As details of the story unfold you learn that Jack’s Ma was kidnapped 7 years earlier and held prisoner ever since. Room is a story that is at once a heartbreaking story and one that is filled with hope and promise for a better life. Ma manages to create a whole world for Jack and for the most part he is a healthy and well adjusted child. When you learn of the things that Ma has done for Jack to ensure that his childhood is as normal as possible your heart breaks for her.
I’ve heard criticism of this story on Twitter and GoodReads about how this story becomes less original and less good because it was based on something that actually happened to a girl in Austria. To me, it makes the story all the more tragic because its one thing to think of the events in the book as fiction. Its all the more difficult to sit in the comfort of your living room and know that someone out there actually lived something similar. Real events inspire books all the time and so I don’t understand the comments that I have read over the internet that say it makes Room less of a story because Emma Donaghue didn’t make up the story. Donaghue could have gone for a retelling of the events that happened in Austria but she didn’t. Instead she took this horrible and unimaginable act and turned it into her own story. 
What I did have trouble with when it came to Room was that Jack was the sole narrator. I understand when Donaghue chose this path but because of it there were several instances in which Jack was far more aware and intuitive than he should have been. For me this book because a little weaker because of these moments as they jolted me out of the false reality that Donaghue had created. I think that the book may have been better if a 3rd person option was used or multiple viewpoints to tell the full story. That said though Room was a quick read and I managed to read large chunks of it in just a few sittings. I really enjoyed Room and have found myself recommending it to others since reading it. Its a story that has stayed with me and made me wonder what I might do if I found myself in that situation. I am not sure that I would be as strong as Ma. Ma is such a strong character and she was a source of love and strength for Jack. She held it together in a situation that was have seriously broken many. Room was my first book by Emma Donaghue but I don’t think it will be my last. Have you read anything else by Donaghue? What book by her should I look into next?

6 Responses to “Room by Emma Donoghue”

  1. tapestry100

    I really loved Room. I had the opportunity to meet Emma Donoghue on her book tour for Room, and she explained that she gave both Ma and Jack a little more intuition into what was going on on purpose, making sure that they were able to take themselves out of such a horrible situation on purpose, thereby making the story one of hope instead of tragedy. This was especially true for Ma, as she was trying to prove the point that Ma would do anything to make a better life for Jack.

    This is my first time readying Emma Donoghue, and like you, I don’t think it’s going to be my last!

  2. thereadingdate

    I know what you mean about wanting to have another or multiple viewpoints in this story. In a way though, the book was more digestible for me as narrated by Jack. It might be a little dark for me to read Ma’s viewpoint.
    Great review- I enjoyed Room as well.

  3. Sarah

    I didn’t have a problem with her using the case in Austria as a basis for the story. I think she did a good job of getting in her characters’ heads and making it her own. All I wanted was an author acknowledgement at the end saying that yes, something like this has happened and that it motivated/inspired/whatever her own characters to be created and give voice to something so tragic.

  4. Lynn

    I agree that it would have been better with a different POV – maybe in the second half of the book. I would have liked to here some of Ma’s thoughts at that point.