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Room: A Novel

A book by Emma Donoghue

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Unique Story with Room for Improvement

  • Feb 23, 2011
Jack has spent his entire life in one location—Room. It is where he was born and to his five year old mind, Room is the entire world. His world contains three people, himself, Ma, and Old Nick. Ma, a victim of kidnapping, uses their limited supplies, to transform Room into a place of adventure and excitement, filled with childhood stories and imaginative play. However, she has never given up hope of being rescued and she longs for their freedom. Told entirely from Jack’s perspective, Room is a breathtaking journey into the world of captivity and a mother’s desperate love for her child.

I loved the concept of this story, but was a little concerned about the execution. I wasn’t sure reading a 300 page story told by a child was going to be particularly entertaining, especially if it attempted to be realistic throughout. I also didn’t know how long the story would remain interesting with the characters confined to a single area. As it turns out, though, these limiting factors were successfully navigated and effectively utilized. The result is a rewarding story that is unique and inventive, with just enough of a child’s perspective to maintain believability, but with enough breaks in the realism to remaining readable.

The opening pages are a bit trying to work through. It is difficult to get a good grasp of the environment coming from Jack’s point of view. It took time to become familiar with his vocabulary as well as his terminology. A few scenes early in the book are initially difficult to discern and somewhat uncomfortable though they make complete sense and are appropriate within the construct of the whole story.

Donoghue did a remarkable job of creating Room, but an even better job of capturing childlike imagination. Once on the outside, Jack’s reactions to the many things he’s never seen before are brilliantly written, transforming ever day items into amazing objects of beauty and wonder. Additionally, the struggle to adapt is portrayed in realistic detail that draws the reader even deeper into Jack’s world.

While Jack’s character is well developed and presented, Ma is a little weak. I sympathized with her and truly believed she was doing the best she could for both of them. However, her reactions are not always predictable and her attitude towards those attempting to help her, often times rude. This is probably the result of excellent writing and a realistic character, but from a reader’s standpoint of wanting to sympathize with Ma, it is a hindrance.

An aspect of the story I would have liked further explored was the motivations and reasons for their captivity. Since the story is limited to Jack’s perspective this would have been difficult to include, but that piece of information would make the story feel complete. Nick wasn’t a main character, but he is the instigator and my curious mind is not satisfied with only the knowledge that he is evil.

I really enjoyed this book. It is somewhat limited by the five year old perspective, but overall Donoghue did a remarkable job constructing a believable story that is still readable. It was an ambitious undertaking and the time spent carefully crafting this story is well rewarded with an intriguing glance into modern slavery. It is touching, at times heart-breaking, and not always a comfortable story to read, but it is highly enjoyable and well worth the time spent reading it.

Review title sent courtesy of Little, Brown and Company

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February 23, 2011
You captured some of my disappointments with your review despite our differences with the ratings. I really would have liked to understand Ma more. I never really thought about Nick, but you're right. He probably wasn't completely evil. It would have been interesting to understand what motivated him to do what he did. Nice review, Meli! Thanks for sharing it with the community!
February 24, 2011
Thank you. For a book to feel complete, I need to understand the opposition. There was a whole other dimension that Donoghue could have taken advantage of by working it into Jack's world. I think, that given the range of concepts and ideas he was able to present, it would have been possible to add some of Nick's motivations as well as a better look at his character.
February 24, 2011
Very true and good point about books feeling complete. I agree with you in that regard. I just finished a good book called "The God of Small Things" which did a really great job of presenting the opposition.
More Room: A Novel reviews
review by . March 21, 2012
Room       Author: Emma Donoghue   Reviewed By Fran Lewis       The four walls of a room can often be confining when you are sick and unable to get around. But, what happens when the four walls become your only outlet with the world, your only environment and the only person that you see is you mother. From the day he was born Jack’s world evolved in the space of an entire Room. His mother, Ma was kidnapped and lived in the room …
review by . February 02, 2011
I had been reading and hearing nothing but good things about Room, so I finally decided to see what the hype was all about. My reading pleasure was slightly tainted when the library gave me one week to read it. The book is that popular with the public! However, my friend Paula assured me that it was a quick read. This was not the case. Although I was able to finish the book in one week, it was out of sheer pride and stubbornness. I wanted to stop reading it numerous times, and if …
review by . October 16, 2013
  I finished reading Emma Donoghue's Room a few days ago and I've been puzzling about it ever since.       The novel, which according to Donoghue's website has now sold more than a million copies, was nominated  for and/or has won a raft of prizes including the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize (for best Canadian novel), the Commonwealth Prize (Canada & Carribbean Region), the Canadian Booksellers’ Asand the Orange Prize.  …
Quick Tip by . February 19, 2012
a great perspective of kidnap from the view of one who's never known anything else.
review by . September 17, 2010
   When I first read the synopsis for this book I was worried that I might not enjoy reading a book told through the eyes of a five year old boy.  I felt that it was either going to come across  as too childish and possibly just annoy me, or he would come off as too mature for his age and therefore make it not credible enough for me.  I'm glad to report that I worried in vain.   Ms. Donoghue gives you the chilling tale of "Ma" - who has been held captive …
review by . February 25, 2011
I would never have read this book if it wasn't part of The Morning News' Tournament of Books. Although this seems to be on most "best books" lists for 2010(and shortlisted for the Mann Booker prize), I wasn't sure I wanted to read Room. The story is being told by a five year old boy who is trapped in a 11' by 11' room with his mother. I have to admit to being concerned about how ghoulish and difficult the subject matter would be. I just didn't need another book …
review by . July 10, 2010
This is the kind of book that is better the less you know about it.    Even the product description above, and probably most of the reviews here will give you more information than you need to know.    So this review won't tell you much about this book. What I can tell you is that it lives up to the hype. It's a poignant, thoughtful, and completely original book.    What makes it original? -- the way of looking at the world, the use of …
Quick Tip by . March 07, 2011
The kind of book you don't want to stop reading! Great and easy read.
review by . October 26, 2010
Told entirely through the voice of a five-year-old boy, this spellbinding novel succeeds on many levels: it's a riveting, suspenseful story, a deep psychological portrait of two people with very different agendas, a total immersion in one child's extremely alien universe, an intense portrayal of love between parent and child, and an examination of our culture and socialization.    It's also a beautifully written novel from the Irish-born author of Slammerkin, which will haunt …
Quick Tip by . January 30, 2011
This book was all I expected and more. It is a beautifully written novel.
About the reviewer
Melissa Willis ()
Ranked #209
A little bit about me. I read primarily Christian fiction. My favorites are suspense, with supernatural elements always being a plus. I most enjoy books that will keep me thinking well after I'm done … more
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Amazon Best of the Month, September 2010: In many ways, Jack is a typical 5-year-old. He likes to read books, watch TV, and play games with his Ma. But Jack is different in a big way--he has lived his entire life in a single room, sharing the tiny space with only his mother and an unnerving nighttime visitor known as Old Nick. For Jack, Room is the only world he knows, but for Ma, it is a prison in which she has tried to craft a normal life for her son. When their insular world suddenly expands beyond the confines of their four walls, the consequences are piercing and extraordinary. Despite its profoundly disturbing premise, Emma Donoghue'sRoomis rife with moments of hope and beauty, and the dogged determination to live, even in the most desolate circumstances. A stunning and original novel of survival in captivity, readers who enterRoomwill leave staggered, as though, like Jack, they are seeing the world for the very first time.--Lynette Mong
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ISBN-10: 0316098337
ISBN-13: 978-0316098335
Author: Emma Donoghue
Genre: Literature & Fiction, Mystery & Thrillers
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
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