Book Review: Room by Emma Donoghue

Room by Emma Donoghue

Genres: Adult fiction, contemporary.

This is the story of a mother, her son, a locked room and the outside world. Jack is five and, like any little boy, excited at the prospect of presents and cake. He’s looking forward to telling his friends it’s his birthday, too. But although Jack is a normal child in many ways – loving, funny, bright, full of energy and questions – his upbringing is far from ordinary: Jack’s entire life has been spent in a single room that measures just 12 feet by 12 feet; as far as he’s concerned, Room is the entire world.

I apologise in advance that this review is vague. It’s because I want it to remain spoiler-free, so I cannot be too specific about what I’m referring to, but if you’ve already read it you’ll probably know.

Although I knew Room was narrated by a five year old, I didn’t think about it too much and so it was still a bit of surprise when I began the novel and was confronted with:

“Today I’m five. I was four last night going to sleep in Wardrobe, but when I wake up in Bed in the dark I’m changed to five, abracadabra.”

Jack has spent his entire life in ‘Room’ with Ma and the entire novel is from his point of view. Ma was kidnapped as a teenager while attending university by ‘Old Nick’ (I was informed that in Christianity, this is another name for the devil) and has not been outside in seven years. The narration took me a little while to get used to but soon enough I was completely comfortable with Jack’s commentary on his day-to-day life and recollection of past events.

I expected Room to be an utterly harrowing read (which it is, of course) but it has its humorous moments. This was completely unexpected and I think made for a more interesting read. It could’ve easily been depressing and memoir-like but Jack manages to inject hilarity into what is a disturbing situation. As an interesting juxtaposition, other events were made even more disturbing than they would’ve been if we were told them outright because of Jack. A child looks at things in an innocent, literal way, while the reader realises there’s something much more sinister going on. A couple of things took me a few chapters to realise in an adult-way rather than Jack-way but when I did, I was shocked. There’s also a certain part of the novel that throws everything into a state of chaos. It’s extremely thrilling and I couldn’t stop reading.

Overall, I thought Room was fascinating and brilliantly done. I did have a few reservations, which is why I do not feel I can say I ‘loved it’ and give it the full five star rating. I mainly had issues with part 3. I found it to be less realistic than the rest of the novel and it impaired my enjoyment. I thought that Ma’s behaviour changed too much too quickly, which was extremely frustrating.

I’d recommend Room purely because of its uniqueness. I love reading things outside of my comfort zone and this was definitely one of those books.

“We’re like people in a book, and he won’t let anyone else read it.”

My Rating: ★★★★
Read as part of Adult Fiction Month

2 thoughts on “Book Review: Room by Emma Donoghue

  1. I’ve been curious about this book. I’m glad to hear that being narrated by a 5 year old doesn’t make it hard to read.

  2. Interestingly, just finished reading Room today and have just started writing my review about it. Thanks for sharing yours.

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