Book Review: Room by Emma Donoghue

Room by Emma Donoghue is such an incredible and compelling story and a really great read. Initially, it takes a wee minute to warm up to because of the syntax of our narrator Jack and for the action to start happening but it is such an interesting and disturbing concept to think about.

Room tells the story of a woman who has been held captive in an eerily realistic sounding hi-tech shed for the past seven years. Five of which have been spent with her child Jack, the result of her captor’s sexual assault, but her saviour in the whole horrible experience. Not only is Jack the one who actually manages the escape but from the subtext you can tell that he also saved Ma just by giving her a purpose and some company in her horrific situation.

I think the fact that it is the unknowing, five-year-old Jack who tells us the story makes the situation much less morbid. You read what is happening but every time you stop and think it’s like oh my goodness, imagine if that was really happening. The fact that we are seeing this harrowing tale through the eyes of a child who barely understands what is going on is what makes the novel bearable to read. If it was flat description it would be too unsettling.

It takes an insightful look at contentedness, social construction and the way victims are attacked by the media. In the Room, Jack was perfectly content with his life and just being with his Ma and being limited to only Sunday treats and this is because he doesn’t know any better, he doesn’t know what he is missing out on and the captivity is just what his world looks like. However, in the reverse Ma is depressed and obviously struggles knowing that she continues to be stuck and attacked because she had 19 years of her life on the Outside, free to do as she wished and see more than just two people. She also has to bear the pain of knowing that she can’t provide her child with everything that he deserves whilst at the same time feeling guilty for being lonely and unhappy when Jack is so content. Even when she escapes, Ma still isn’t really free as she is surrounded in paparazzi and a further knife is pressed and turned into her guilty wound as people criticise her parenting.

The climax of the novel, the escape, is so gripping I actually could not put the book down. I am so glad that it didn’t end once they had escaped. Some books stop too early and you’re left wanting to know what happened to the characters after but Room goes into that ‘what happened next’ detail in almost equal amounts as everything leading up to that point which I found really satisfying.

I haven’t watched the film yet and I don’t know if I want to because I’m so happy with the book but 10/10, five stars, I would definitely recommend that everyone should read this Room.

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