Book Review: Room by Emma Donoghue

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Where do I even start with this review? I’m not sure any review can really do this book justice but I’ll try. If you don’t know, Room is about a five year old boy named Jack who has lived all his life in a single room with his mother ‘Ma’. An intriguing concept in itself but that is not where the success of this novel lies, because Donoghue had an ace up her sleeve that would set this book apart.

Room is written in first person, which I am sure most readers are accustomed to. However, this particular narrative is written from the perspective of a five year old boy. Now at first, I’ll admit, I was sceptical.  The obvious grammatical errors of a five year old are a little jarring to begin with, because of this the narrative felt a bit stop and start for me. But once you are able to overlook this and you become more familiar with Jack’s voice (which I promise won’t take long) the novel flows with ease.

Many have described this book as beautiful and they are not wrong, in fact, beautiful may not be a strong enough word. The world through a child’s eye is a truly wonderful thing. Jack made me smile, laugh and he forced my heart to swell, bringing me to tears on some occasions. It is his unique outlook and very literal mind that works so well for this novel. I can only congratulate Donoghue for her skillful and dedicated writing which made Jack’s voice so believable.

When I watched the trailer for the adaptation after finishing the book, I was shocked to see how the room looked. I’m sure we all do this, it’s rare that someone else will build the exact same image that we do when reading. However, very quickly I realised why I was so surprised. I read the book from a five year old’s point of view, a little boy for who the room was his home, a place he loved, the only thing he knew. Through his eyes I didn’t see the ugliness or the sadness that built the room and this for me, is the most poignant aspect of the novel.

Had the story been told through the mother’s eyes, it would have been a very difficult read, too dark, too real. Changing the perspective allowed Donoghue to write about a devastating subject in a way that made it more accessible and to be honest, less scary! In a lot of ways Room reminds me of The Bunker Diary, but it stands out because of its hope and beauty.

The narrative is in no way diminished by the child’s voice. The pacing of the novel has plenty of suspense, it doesn’t shy away from the fear or sadness surrounding the issue and it is an engrossing read. Had it been handled differently then perhaps the story itself couldn’t aspire to be as good as others of its genre. But Donoghue’s clever storytelling elevates this book, making it a unique and hauntingly beautful read.

 

 

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