Review: Room by Emma Donoghue

Room - Emma Donoghue

I'm unsure about this one .....

I'm not a fan of using kids as narrator and Room did not change my opinion. Jack, who tells the story, is 5 years old and lives captive with his mother in a shed at the bottom of the garden belonging to Old Nick, her kidnapper and abuser. So the subject matter is pretty grim, right? But it's made very light by Jack, who's only ideas and knowledge of the outside world come from the television (which he believes is only full of made up stories, even the news) and his mother, who tells him a very warped version to protect him. I think this transforms what could have been a very deep, dark story into something much more light and frothy. For example, Jack shows no pain, disgust or sadness in regards to his mothers abuse, he does not yearn for a normal life outside of the tiny room he and his mother occupy as that is all he has ever known. It just takes the edge off the whole thing really as there's a distinct lack of emotion where it was perhaps needed at times.


I do not like children. I find them irritating, grating and infuriatingly irrational. Jack is no different. To begin with I was mildly amused by his chirpy little voice and jolly description. But this very quickly started to wear thin. The describing of objects as proper nouns made my reading of this book very stilted as it sounded so unnatural and did not sit comfortably. Jack's mother is very quick to correct his grammar at other times (she tells him "brought" not "brung" at one point) so why doesn't she pick him up on this annoying quirk? I also found Jack less and less convincing as a five year old as the story progressed. His vocabulary seems very advanced for his age and some of his ideas and opinions a little too complex. I don't know, this just bothered me. It was almost as if Emma Donoghue just didn't fully commit to using five year old Jack as her narrator. I think it maybe would have read better if it had been interspersed with short portions of narration by Jack's mother to better portray the gravity, emotion and detail of the situation without having to make Jack unbelievable to achieve this.


Three stars though, as it is a page turner, an interesting take on the idea from a fresh point of view and it does leave an impact. I feel horrible for Jack's mother. She's trying her best to hold it all together for her son, trapped in Room and also when they eventually escape and she struggles to cope with media attention and find herself again. I think this sort of crime (imprisonment and rape) is mind-bogglingly disgusting. How anyone could do this to another human being is really beyond my understanding. I give credit to Ms Donoghue for dealing with this vile subject in the way she does: delicately, sensitively and with taste, as despite my doubts about her choice of narrator she does weave the story in a way that we are shielded, as Jack is, from the full horror of what is happening. Although this does leave gaps which an adult voice would have filled with emotion, understanding and awareness, it also makes for less brutal reading.