Review: Room, by Emma Donoghue

Jack is a precocious 5-year-old who has spent his entire life with his mother in an 11×11-foot room.  He’s never felt the sun on his shoulders, or rain on his face.  He’s never worn a coat or shoes.  But to Jack, Outside is not real; it’s only something he sees on TV.  Room and Ma are his reality.  And so is Old Nick, who brings food, takes out the trash, and metes out “special” items — like new jeans for Jack — as “sundaytreat.”

Old Nick is a psychopath who kidnapped Ma seven years earlier, held her hostage, and subjected her to repeated acts of rape.  Ma is a survivor, largely because of her fierce devotion to Jack.  She is determined to give him the most normal life possible, carefully rationing his TV time and using the most ordinary events as educational opportunities.  And she never lets Jack know they are captive.  But one day, as the result of a minor slip-up, Jack catches on and begins to ask a lot of questions about Outside.  The way Ma explains the world, and her response to Jack’s growing knowledge, turn this story into an intense survival tale.

Emma Donoghue has been widely praised for Room, especially for her ability to create such an authentic narrator in Jack.  The reader sees Outside through his eyes, where everything is new — a completely different perspective from Ma, who lived Outside before.  Jack’s voice makes even more clear the stark contrast between confinement and freedom.

Room is a suspenseful novel, but also a story of the profound bond between mother and child.  A wonderful book.

8 thoughts on “Review: Room, by Emma Donoghue

    • Yes, Jackie, it was incredible! I don’t think I’ve found anyone yet who didn’t like it (although I’m sure there must be someone …).

  1. I must have read at least 20 reviews of this book by now and I am still torn about whether or not to read it. I just don’t know.. I’m a bit afraid that it will be too disturbing to read.

    • Iris, it is a surprisingly uplifting book. Yes, Ma and Jack are in a horrible situation and you certainly “feel” that. But it’s not graphic, and their relationship, not their captivity, is the central element of the story.

    • Amanda, I don’t usually jump on new books (like you I’m more of a “Classics Blogger”). But this one received so much acclaim, and then being shortlisted for the Booker Prize (I’m a bit of a fanatic) … well, I just couldn’t resist. I also don’t often buy new books, least of all in hardcover, and I totally caved on this one. No regrets though — I have two daughters who are eyeing it now so we’ll get our money’s worth!

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