Room by Emma Donoghue

The best part about Summer is undoubtedly spending time outside, whether it’s having picnics, simply enjoying the sun or staying out late with friends. But for Jack, the Summer is like any other time of year; he has lived his entire life is a single room, with his Ma. The borders of Jack’s world is the walls of Room, where the foundations of his world is Table, Bed and Wardrobe. For him, it is practically inconceivable that anything else can exist outside Room, even when his Ma, with whom he has never let out of sight, told him so.

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Jack is five years old, and this novel is written from his point of view. This is a challenging perspective for Donoghue to choose, and I admire how authentic the sentences sound, because writing in that style is counterintuitive. There are copious amounts of (intentional) spelling mistakes and grammatical errors, which are uncomfortable to read. (Like when you read a sign or an email and there is a blatant error which you want to correct, except you have that nagging feeling throughout the entire novel.) It was so annoying, in fact, that when I first started the novel I hoped this was an introduction of sorts, and the next chapter would be Jack at an intelligible age with a more complex mental syntax so that I wouldn’t have to endure 400 pages of rough language.

Having said that, a novel isn’t shortlisted for the Man Booker prize and the Orange prize for nothing. Room is challenging, facing the issue of captivity boldly, and this is not to be taken for granted. Although I wouldn’t say this novel changes how I perceive the world, (as other people have commented) it certainly puts our general freedom into perspective, and brings to the forefront of our consciousness some horrific issues that are still present in the world today.

However, there were some slight problems, too. I found that when Donoghue was describing a few of Jack and his Ma’s days spent in Room, I got bored. An incredibly detailed description of one day would have satisfied me, because they were all similar to a vast extent. Perhaps this was Donoghue attempting to get across the monotony of their lives; if so, that same monotonous feeling transferred to me. In-depths accounts of what Jack was watching on the TV ceased to interest me very rapidly, as well as how many bits of cereal he ate for breakfast (this is relevant because they have to ration to food, but still not very interesting). Also, I found that Jack’s mother was strangely lenient with him; she didn’t tell him off or have his actions corrected, because despite the pair being in a close relationship, Jack was becoming increasing petulant as the novel went on, and surely Ma would want to teach him manners? Ma was also inconsistent as a character, which I found confusing, because for the majority of the novel she is a fierce mother, and then after the climax she (for those who have the novel) takes an action which forces Jack to stay at his grandparent’s house. Some may argue that this is because of the overwhelming change that Ma is having to face, but it does suggest that she isn’t as close to Jack as originally perceived. Also, the climax. It happens halfway through! I reached it, and then thought, what happens next that can be as interesting? (Nothing, was the answer.)

This novel is worth reading if you are looking for something to stretch and test you as a reader; it is unique in it’s perspective and will offer a great sense of variation from all the many other holiday novels that you may be reading.

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