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To five-year-old-Jack, Room is the world....

Told in the inventive, funny, and poignant voice of Jack, Room is a celebration of resilience—and a powerful story of a mother and son whose love lets them survive the impossible.

To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it's where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it's not enough ... not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son's bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work.

Told entirely in the language of the energetic, pragmatic five-year-old Jack, Room is a celebration of resilience and the limitless bond between parent and child, a brilliantly executed novel about what it means to journey from one world to another.

321 pages, Hardcover

First published August 20, 2010

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About the author

Emma Donoghue

68 books11.7k followers
Grew up in Ireland, 20s in England doing a PhD in eighteenth-century literature, since then in Canada. Best known for my novel, film and play ROOM, also other contemporary and historical novels and short stories, non-fiction, theatre and middle-grade novels.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 50,114 reviews
November 9, 2010
Ever since its Booker nomination (it made the shortlist), Room by Irish writer Emma Donoghue has set the literary world on fire. Most people who review the book seem to love it. They talk about how riveting and suspenseful the book is and how they felt compelled to finish it in a single reading. I guess I’ll have to be one of the few dissenting voices. I really, really, really disliked Room and yes, I do have specific reasons why.

I can’t imagine anyone not knowing the basic plot of Room, but for those who don’t, the book was inspired by the true story of Elisabeth Fritzl, an Austrian woman who had been imprisoned in her father’s basement for twenty-four years, during which time he repeatedly assaulted and raped her. She eventually bore him seven children and had one miscarriage. Three of her children, one daughter and two sons had been imprisoned with their mother for the whole of their lives (until rescue).

Room takes its basic plot from the Fritzl case as well as the cases of Jaycee Lee Dugard in California and of Natascha Kampusch and Sabine Dardenne.

Room is narrated by a young boy, Jack, who has just “celebrated” his fifth birthday. Jack has never known a human being other than his mother, who he calls “Ma.” “Ma,” we come to learn, was abducted one night at age nineteen on her way to the school library. For the past seven years she’s been held captive in a garden shed fitted with soundproofed cork, lead-lined walls, and a coded metal security door and raped repeatedly by her captor, a man she calls “Old Nick.” Two years into her abduction, “Ma” gave birth to a son, the five-year-old Jack mentioned above.

We soon learn that “Ma” has tried to make life as normal and as sane as possible for Jack as one can in a room that measures 11x11. She holds “Phys Ed” classes for Jack in the morning and tries to ensure that he gets some exercise. She insists that they keep to strict mealtimes. They do have a TV, and though “Ma” limits Jack’s TV watching just like any good parent would do, it is from TV that Jack learns about the outside world, that he learns the stories that “Ma” entertains him with are true ones. However, despite the fact that Jack has access to television, he really isn’t aware that anything exists outside of “Room.” Even “Old Nick” isn’t “real” to Jack because Jack’s always safe in “Wardrobe” when “Old Nick” comes through “Door.” All Jack really knows about “Old Nick” is that he “brings groceries and Sundaytreat and disappears the trash, but he's not human like us. He only happens in the night, like bats.... I think Ma doesn't like to talk about him in case he gets realer.”

I have to admit, I’ve never been fond of books narrated by children, but Room, for me, was especially odious. “Ma” has created characters out of all the objects in “Room” and Jack refers to them as though they are real, living, breathing persons. There’s “Wardrobe” and “Rug” and “Plant” and “Meltedy Spoon.” One page of this is bad enough, but an entire book? It took a lot of determination for me to finish the thing. Here’s Jack describing a typical day in “Room”:

We have thousands of things to do every morning, like give Plant a cup of water in Sink for no spilling, then put her back on her saucer on Dresser.... I count one hundred cereal and waterfall the milk that’s nearly the same white as the bowls, no splashing, we thank Baby Jesus.

Waterfall the milk??????

Regarding his TV watching, Jack says:

I'd love to watch TV all the time, but it rots our brains. Before I came down from Heaven Ma left it on all day long and got turned into a zombie that's like a ghost but walks thump thump. So now she always switches off after one show, then the cells multiply again in the day and we can watch another show after dinner and grow more brains in our sleep.

And here’s Jack talking about some “quiet time” with “Ma”:

I get on Ma’s lap in Rocker with our legs all jumbled up. She’s the wizard transformed into a giant squid and I’m prince JackerJack and I escape in the end. We do tickles and Bouncy Bouncy and jaggedy shadows on Bed Wall.

Well, a paragraph of that here and there might have worked, but a whole half of a book? Not on your life. And this is a kid who can sing along to Eminem and Woody Guthrie music videos. He knows the latest dances. He listens to people speak on TV. His own mother, the only person with whom he converses, speaks normally. He uses words like “rappelling” and “hippopotami” with ease. Heck, he even knows more about the fall of the Berlin Wall than many Germans. So what’s with the almost unintelligible baby talk? I know he’s only five, but other than his horrendous speech, he seems to be a very precocious five. And please. How many rundowns of “Dora the Explorer” or “Spongebob Squarepants” can one reader take without wanting to throw the book across the room?

(From here on this review will contain minor plot spoilers. Please don’t continue reading if plot spoilers will ruin the book for you.)

The story of Room is split into two parts, the first part occurring in “Room” and the second part occurring “Outside” after “Ma” and Jack escape. The escape is, to put it mildly, totally ludicrous. For a kid who doesn’t even believe the outside world exists, to do what Jack did is beyond belief. It’s like Donoghue didn’t know what she wanted her book to be – the claustrophobic story of captivity inside a small room and how it limits the emotional and intellectual growth of a five-year-old or how a five-year-old who’s been imprisoned in an 11x11 room all his life can mature and be a hero. None of us, including Donoghue, can have it both ways.

Once we realize that Jack and “Ma” (we never do learn her name) are being held captive, one would think that Room would take on a sinister, suspenseful atmosphere and leave us wondering what “Old Nick” is going to do next. Instead, it’s painfully boring and slow going and almost totally lacking in suspense. Because Donoghue confines her point of view, at least in the first half of the book, to Jack, the insight we get is painfully mundane, and well, boring. When we finally reach the unbelievable “escape” from “Room,” it all feels forced and shallow and contrived.

Some people have made the remark that Donoghue captures perfectly the voice of a young child. I don’t think she does. I don’t even think she captures perfectly the voice of a young child who’s been imprisoned and cut off from the world for all of his five years of life. However, for the sake of argument, let’s just say that Donoghue does capture a five-year-old’s speech pattern perfectly. How many books written by five-year-olds do you find engrossing and enlightening? My bet is none. Five-year-olds can be cute in small doses and of course we love them and want the best for them, but let’s be truthful, they really aren’t very insightful or interesting for long periods of time, and neither is Jack.

And then, after the totally implausible “escape” from “Room,” Donoghue fails to explore, with deep insight, the ramifications of reentering a world from which one’s been absent for seven years, or in Jack’s case, a world he’s never known. I felt Donoghue glossed over this difficult transition. I felt the second half of the book lacked depth just as the first half did, though in a different way. What does “Ma” feel now that she’s free? Is she going to reunite with her own parents? (Her mother refused to accept “Ma’s” seeming death, while her father needed to do so and even held a funeral for her.) Is she going to introduce them to their grandson and him to them? Being held in captivity for years, then introduced/reintroduced to the outside world is going to be traumatic for anyone, but for some mysterious reason, Donoghue doesn’t want to explore the rich store of human emotions she could have mined. There was a curious disconnect between the intense trauma “Ma” and Jack would have had to suffer and the blitheness with which Donoghue relates their story.

And what of the unnatural bond, truly reminiscent of that in “Psycho,” formed between Jack and “Ma” while in “Room?” Yes, I realize that two people imprisoned together for years are going to form a deep bond, but once those people are freed, especially if they are a twenty-six year old mother and her five-year-old son, then some separation and setting of boundaries is going to be necessary in order to promote mental and emotional health. But Donoghue never explores this facet of “Ma’s” and Jack’s captivity, though clearly, she realized it exists. At one point, Jack says of himself, “Maybe I’m a human, but I’m a me-and-Ma as well.” That outlook might have served him well in “Room” but it’s a dangerous one to cultivate in “Outside.”

Donoghue took a real risk with Room and I applaud her for her courage. I think this is going to be a very polarizing book – people will probably either love it or hate it. They will feel it worked wonderfully or they will feel it didn’t work at all. Obviously, for me, it didn’t work at all. I thought the premise was wonderful, but I felt Donoghue failed to deliver. I honestly can’t understand how this book even made the Booker longlist, let alone the shortlist. I expect more depth and insight from a Booker nominated work. Do I think Donoghue was a lazy storyteller with Room? I don’t know if I’d go that far, but I do think she capitalized on gimmicks and topicality, and I was very disappointed. In the end, the whole thing felt like a cheap trick to me, and after reading it, I felt like I had to go take a long, hot shower.


Recommended: No.
Profile Image for Joel.
556 reviews1,665 followers
March 21, 2011
I was all ready to hate this book. Doesn't it sound obnoxious? An adult novel about harrowing things, but narrated by a 5-year-old? Mere gimmickry, right, a showy writing experiment, likely to win praise from the easily impressed.

But I don't think I am that easily impressed, and damn, this book is kind of a stunner. Because yes, if not handled exactly right, a book narrated by a child probably would be obnoxious. I haven't read Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close yet, and I might or might not like it, but I already know that it is written in the voice of a precocious 9-year-old, and precocious kids usually are pretty annoying.

But Jack, the narrator of Room, is not really precocious, and Emma Donoghue has managed to capture a realistic child's voice without turning out a book that's overly simplistic or too calculated. And I really don't know how she did it.

As you begin reading this story of a boy who has spent his entire life locked in one small room, the son of the unfortunate Ma (who is never named, because she's Ma), who was kidnapped and has been kept in the room for the last seven years, it does seem too cute: all the objects in Room are proper nouns with genders, like Floor and Bed and Duvet and Wardrobe, which kind of makes sense because to Jack, they are the only onlys of those things in the world, because the whole world is Room (he has a TV, which he thinks shows make-believe things that live on planets inside the TV). But I kept reading, and there's really remarkable depth to the story even though such a limited narrative scope.

What really grabbed me is the way the book perfectly captures the malleability of a kid's mind, the way they take what they know and use it as a filter to interpret the stuff they encounter that they don't understand. I once read something by Stephen King that posited that all children are more or less clinically insane until about age seven, when those parts of their brain firm up and they stop coming up with ideas like, "oh it got dark because a giant monster ate the sun." And of course, Emma Donoghue knows that we are not 5-year-olds, and she somehow manages to weave in all these staggeringly sad truths about the world, and growing up, and our relationships with our parents, and how fleeting time and relationships can be, all into the voice of this little boy who doesn't even realize what he's saying, but it doesn't feel crammed in, or like a cheat (the Magical Negro 5-Year-Old).

I didn't say anything about the plot because I think it really helps to not know much beyond the premise going in (and it's one of those books I would really like to have read knowing absolutely nothing at all, but such is life). And yes, it's more of a heart book than a head book, but I don't think it is bad that sometimes books try to engage us in different ways. And certainly there's room, with this premise, for a different kind of book, almost a social satire, but that's not what we have here, and it's still quite an experience.
Profile Image for Jesse (JesseTheReader).
468 reviews176k followers
August 13, 2015
Such a gripping and emotional read! I'm glad I finally took the chance to pick this up and read it.
Profile Image for mark monday.
1,676 reviews5,250 followers
August 9, 2016
Jesus Christ on a popsicle stick, i can't believe i have to read this! argh. my colleague Michael (hopefully not a GR member) loaned this to me; clearly he knows that i am a "reader". but just as clearly he does not get that i like my books to have at least an edge of un-reality to them. you know, fantasy. horror. science fiction. historical fiction. and if not that, then just something, anything that moves them away from mainstream depictions of the modern real world. now Room looks like a snapshot of life right from the news. or right from my place of work! good grief, i deal with depressing enough stuff already goddamnit! reading the back cover description was like reading the label of a bottle of poison - i do not want to drink this. but fine, i respect you Michael and so i will read this one. just don't get mad if it takes me two months to get through this fucking thing.


it took me over two weeks to finish the first half. i finished the second half during an afternoon and part of an evening. an amazing novel and a very emotional experience. i think i'll save writing a review for a little bit and let it sink in for a while.


it's hard for me to define exactly why the first half of the novel was so hard to get through. at first i convinced myself that the child's perspective was just too "hearbreakingly poignant", and i am not the kind of person who is enthusiastic about reading works of heartbreaking poignance. but that is patently false; i love those kinds of books although i would never admit it openly. well, i'd say it in a GR review, but i would never say that out loud, if that makes sense. perhaps i'm a hypocrite that way. so then i convinced myself that there was just something wrong with the narrator's voice, something off, he just seemed - at different points - to be either too precocious or too simple for a child his age. i compared him a lot to my nephews, and it didn't gel - his thought process did not parallel their thought process. but then i thought about this kid's situation, the extreme sort of home-schooling he received, the protective wall that his amazing mom built for him, the way he interpreted the world...and it made sense, a whole lot of sense. his voice turned out to be a very real one for me, at least based upon my understanding of his young life.

and so i realized that the reason i was avoiding coming back to Room's first half was more basic, more simple. it made me want to cry, all the time. perhaps i'm too soft, maybe i just have too thin a skin. it's not like i have any illusions about kids - they are not saints to me, nor are they just tiny adults. i'm comfortable around children and i prefer them to many adults i've met, but i don't idealize them either. however i do have a big natural urge to protect them. i'm not sure where that comes from; i don't think it's based on genetics or upbringing. and so it was just really hard to return again and again to a novel that had as its central situation the kind of thing that i try actively to never contemplate. as in, i'll turn the channel or put down the paper if i come across a story like this one. to be honest, each time i read a few lines of the first half, my eyes would well up a little, that shortness of breath thing happened - and often in public, on the bus, at a coffeeshop, reading at a lunch spot. the private world of this novel became a public experience to me. i avoided this book at first because i do not like to appear weak - to the world around me, or to myself.

i told the guy who loaned me the book about my issues and was given some advice: just stick with it, it will open up and it will be beautiful. and so i did. and the book did. it was good advice.

the first half of the book was beautiful as well. wonderfully written. but thank God, the second half really did open up. it was like taking a breath of wonderful, clean air, somewhere in nature, away from the city. the humor remained but it was transformed into something wry, something that was still poignant but with a sheen of sardonic humor that i appreciated (and, truth be told, perhaps had a level of distance to it that i rather lazily connected to as well). the anger i felt in the first half towards Old Nick was inchoate - the kind of blind rage that i feel towards anyone who'd harm a child. the anger i felt in the second half was of a kind that is more comfortable, more familiar - towards the media, towards pop psychology, towards various institutions and the like. the second half had lessons to be learned - lessons about perception and isolation and materialism and the family bond and the bond between mother & son, protector & protected. the simple fact of "lessons to be learned" made the second half so much easier to read, it made the narrative positively propulsive in my desire to learn what was going to happen next. the horribly (and needfully) static nature of the book's first half was replaced by an emotional dynamism that really grabbed me. again, this is not a critique of the first half, which i think was perfectly written. instead, it is a critique of my own ability to deal with challenging, terrifying situations involving kids - since i couldn't do anything to stop or even hurt Old Nick, i wanted only to look away. and so the second half turned out to be more of a familiar road, with familiar pleasures. the first half of the book was horribly unique and my mind balked. the second half eased me back into a world i could deal with, respond to, and not shut down. at the end of the second half, the end of the novel itself, i read those last few sentences over and again, closed the book, and cried. such a relief. it's funny to think of all the tears i had saved up.
November 17, 2015
This book was awful. Emotionless. Annoying.

Look, I get it, it's quite difficult to write from the perspective of a 5-year old as a grown up. I can hardly remember what it was like being five, and I can't even begin to write from the POV of one. I do, however, know an enjoyable story when I see it, and I know when I'm annoyed. And I know that this book annoyed me greatly.

The hallmark of any brilliant novel is the ability to make the reader empathize for the characters in the book. I want to be able to understand and experience the joy, suffering, frustration, anger, whatever it is that the main characters and the main narrators feel. I got none of that here, due in part to the emotional immaturity and lack of comprehension on the very young main characters' part, and in part due to my frustration and annoyance at the five year old narrator.

The little boy's is haphazard, almost a stream of consciousness narration.
I choose Meltedy Spoon with the white all blobby on his handle when he leaned on the pan of boiling pasta by accident. Ma doesn’t like Meltedy Spoon but he’s my favorite because he’s not the same.
And I have to tell you, it is annoying as fuck. In that sense, maybe the book is fairly true to the depiction of kids, because to be honest, a lot of kids are pretty damn annoying to me.

Maybe this kid is annoying because he doesn't know anything outside Room. Maybe he's immature because of his seclusion. Maybe this. Maybe that. I don't want to have to make excuses for the book's shortcomings.

This book takes place in a room. Have you ever been locked up for an entire day in a room (without a computer or an iPhone for company?) It is as boring as it sounds, and this book is as boring as it sounds. But it's not boring because the mom has the kid and they love each other! That makes it awesome, right? Not for me.

I have a little sister. She's 10 years younger than I am. Consequently, I had to put up with a hell of a lot of little kids growing up. They were intelligent, bright, precocious. I still couldn't stand their company. This book was hell.

The story of Ma is pretty awful, because she's been kidnapped and raped and locked up. We got no sense of that. There is no emotion, there is no horror, there is no knowing what happened to her because the story is told from the perspective of a stupid little child. The choice of the narrator completely ruins what should have been a heart-wrenching tale.
Profile Image for Stephen.
1,516 reviews11.2k followers
March 15, 2012
Healthy ambition is a laudable trait and I admire people willing to reach beyond their grasp in the attempt to achieve something special.

I respect the author’s choice to write a dark-themed story narrated entirely from the perspective of a five year old boy. While the unreliable narrator is nothing new in literature, its deployment here felt fresh and so I give points for that.

Unfortunately, that is about all I can give points for because the novel itself was a huge miss for me. Huge!!

Obviously, the story is intended to be an emotional ordeal with its depiction of a young woman and her 5 year old son being held captive in a garden shack (the eponymous “Room”) by a sociopath named “Old Nick.” At the beginning of the story, the woman, who was 19 when she was abducted, has been in the Room for almost 10 years. Her son, Jack, just turned 5...you can do the math regarding Jack’s paternity. Neither of them has been outside the Room in all that time.

This is dark stuff. This is uncomfortable stuff. This is a story about a horrible person doing horrible things. It should have punched me in the core and twisted me up in knots.

Yet it never affected me.

Now, if I was a cold, empathy-impaired individual, I might chalk up my lack of reaction to a simple case of “not my kind of story” and leave it at that. However, if you’ve read any of my reviews, you should have clued into the fact that I’m a deeply some would say overly emotional reader. Books move me, that’s why I read them. They make me laugh, cry, rage, exult…they make me feel. Yet, despite the highly charged subject matter of the story, no more than an occasional trickle of emotion ever filtered through to me from the page.

Something was serious amiss in the delivery.

Given my blasé reaction to the story, I began to suspect that the use of a child narrator was nothing more than a huge gimmick designed to help distinguish a story that otherwise had very little to recommend it. I know that's not the consensus opinion, but it's honestly how I felt.

To be fair, it’s more likely that the use of Jack as the narrator, while an interesting plot device, simply presented too many serious challenges that the novel, unfortunately, was unable to successfully overcome. To the good, the author does a nice job of showing us the world of Room through the lens of Jack’s childhood perception. We learn how Jack has named and anthropomorphized every object in the room and thinks of them as his friends, and how he refers to each channel on the TV as a different planet.

Initially, this is kind of cute, but it got old and decrepit in short order.

The real problem for me was that Jack was too detached from the horror of his situation and it care-blocked the impact of the story on the reader…at least this reader. Children Jack’s age, while certainly able to show empathy, are generally so egocentric that any feelings of compassion for another’s pain are weak and undeveloped, being more about parroting behavior they’ve learned from caregivers than a true placing of themselves “in the shoes” of the other person.

Unfortunately, this worked against my connection with the narrative. Jack’s happy-go-lucky outlook was too strong a filter between what I could tell was happening in the story and what I knew I was supposed to be feeling about it. Jack’s personal, subjective experience of his captivity is completely lacking in any sense of sadness or dread. This is because his mother does a wonderful job of sheltering him from the reality of their situation.

However, Jack also doesn’t experience feelings of discomfort about the abuse that his mother is subjected to and this subtracts a great deal from the power of these scenes. Without his own internal sense of bewilderment, confinement or pain, much of the intended poignancy was lost on me. I knew I was supposed to feel something, but I didn't.

That’s just me. If I had found the emotional tether that could have pulled me into the Room with Jack and his mother, my feelings for the book would have been much different. The writing is fine and the author’s ability to convincingly give voice to Jack was worthy of note. I just never found the necessary connection and that is a shame.

I envy those of you that loved this as I was really looking forward to reading it.

2.0 stars.
Profile Image for Wendy Darling.
1,631 reviews34k followers
February 4, 2016
I've read about a lot of different crimes, in far more detail than I'd care to remember. In all the tragedies that I've read about, manmade or otherwise, no act of violence has ever made my heart wrench more than the prolonged imprisonment of a human being for sexual purposes. It's also the crime I have the most difficulty in comprehending, as I cannot imagine the amount of inhumanity it would take to capture someone and look her in the eye, day after day for years, without mercy and without pity. I still get very upset when I read about these things, even years after the events which no doubt inspired this book.

To say that I was very interested in reading this book is therefore an understatement. The subject matter and the editorial accolades made this sound like a novel that was not to be missed, and the author's other work is very well-reviewed. And in the beginning of the book, I was content enough with the developments of the story, as the reader gets to know Jack and his Ma and the Room in which they've lived for so many years.

About halfway through, however, I started to become impatient with the constraints of the format the author had chosen. Having a 5-year-old narrator became an extremely frustrating exercise, both in terms of his (understandable) unwillingness to comprehend or listen to certain things and in terms of getting a truly emotional take on the experience. I don't fault the decision to write this from a child's point of view, but I do think it would have been a deeper, more rewarding story had it been narrated from an older child's perspective--perhaps from a 10-year-old's POV. I'm not certain that the voice was entirely convincing in and of itself, either; after awhile, the tendency to name every object as if it were a proper pronoun became a little tiresome, and there are interjections of thoughts and passages that are far too mature for Jack's thought processes. Filtering this story through someone so young also meant that the reader gains far less insight into his mother's pain and his captor's background than you might hope.

The author does include convincing details of Jack's attachment to Room itself, nice moments of closeness with his Ma, and attempts to provide adult insight and terminology through overhead conversations or snippets on tv. Overall, however, this novel was a big disappointment to me. I expected to feel something for these characters--and if it could not be something profoundly deep and empathetic, I'd at least hoped for something more than simple intellectual interest and pity.

Updated 4/27/11: I've given this a lot of thought, and based on GoodReads' ratings system, I've changed my rating from a 2 to a 1. In the end, there are two things I wanted from this book: to have some degree of deeper insight into the suffering that these characters endured and to be moved by their plight. For me, this book offered neither.
Profile Image for Will Byrnes.
1,309 reviews120k followers
October 24, 2019
What makes up the world to five-year-old Jack, our window into life in Room? His mother for sure, a loving, very engaged 24/7 presence. Old Nick is an occasional visitor, although only glimpsed through the almost-closed doors of a wardrobe. A skylight allows Jack and Ma to see the sun, and sometimes the moon. A television offers a view on Outside, the world beyond Room. Jack and his 26-year-old mother get through their days with a strict schedule, a rich imaginative life and absolute love for each other. They need all those things. Jack has never seen the outside of their eleven-foot-square room. His mother has been held prisoner by a madman for seven years.

Emma Donoghue - image from her site

One might think that it would be a strain to read an entire adult novel in the voice of such a young child. I felt trepidatious for a while, myself. But once I got used to the norms of Jack’s speech, the rest just flowed. A child and mother held prisoner for so long is nothing less than a horror story. It was uncomfortable to read, and reminded me of the feelings summoned by some of Stephen King’s scarier efforts. But Room is not just a tale of terror, of captivity and isolation. It delves into larger issues, particularly in the latter chapters. What is real? What is just an image seen on a TV screen? Are we better off, in some ways, to live in a world that has everything defined, ordered, secure, than having to cope with actual reality? Where does one draw that line?

Room was inspired, at least in part, by actual, disturbing, events. In Austria, a young woman, Elizabeth Fritzl, was imprisoned for 24 years by her serial-rapist father, bearing him seven children. One of those died as a result of the evil father refusing to seek medical treatment for him. There are echoes of that event here. But while a real-life horror story may have been a basis for the book, Room is not a downer. It offers both the dark excitement of a scary story and a thoughtful look at what defines us as people. In contrast to the monstrous, Donaghue gives us an inspirational, loving parent in the same vein as Roberto Benigni’s Guido Orefice from It’s a Beautiful Life. Ma makes a real life for Jack.

Brie Larson as Ma and Jacob Tremblay as Jack - from the film - image from The Guardian

Donaghue offers a caustic look at contemporary media as well, presenting the media as severely truth-challenged and lacking in insight and ethics. A TV interviewer is insulting in her stupidity.

I was convinced by the voice Donaghue gave Jack, the true strength of her writing here. But I found that towards the back end of the story, Jack started sounding much too grown-up, and was clearly serving as the author’s avatar. But for the vast majority of her book, Donaghue carries it off, amazingly.

The story is compelling, the writing creative and effective. If you don’t make room for Room on your reading list, you won’t know Jack, and that would be a shame.

In light of recent (2013) events in Ohio, this book should see a revival in interest.

==============================EXTRA STUFF

Links to Donoghue's personal, FB, and Twitter pages

7/3/13 - I happened across Oprah selecting Room as one of eleven books to devour on a long flight.
Profile Image for Kemper.
1,390 reviews6,964 followers
May 25, 2011
“Hey, there Nick.”

“Uh, hello.”

“Nice day for working in the yard, isn’t it?”

“Uh, yeah. Real nice.”

“Say, that is a helluva shed you’re building there.”

“It's nothing special.”

“Oh, don’t be modest, Nick. It’s a real corker. It’s even got a skylight for some natural light. What are you going to be doing in there? A little artwork?”

“Just, you know, projects…. and stuff.”

“You got a central AC unit for it? Plus, I see you put some furniture and a fridge in there. If you were married, I’d think you were building a man cave to get away from the old-ball-and-chain, but since you’re single, I guess you’re just planning on spending a lot of time in that shed.”

“Uh, yeah. Gonna be out here all the time. Doing…stuff.”

“And just look at that steel door with the alarm pad. You’re aren’t going to have to worry about any kids breaking into that.”

“Uh, yeah. I was worried about kids stealing my….stuff.”

“Yep. No way, they’re getting in there. Didn’t I see you sheeting it in some kind of metal under the siding? Hell, Nick, you could probably lock someone in there like a prison cell. Ha ha!”

“Uh, right. That’s a …funny idea.”

“Well, see ya later, Nick. Swing by for a beer sometime.”

7 Years Later

“Well, officer, he was kind of quiet. Always kept to himself. Still can’t believe what he did in that shed. Who could have known that’s what he was doing out there?”

This seriously disturbing story is narrated by Jack and starts on his fifth birthday. Jack and his Ma share Room. He thinks of every object in Room like Rug or Plant or Meltdy Spoon as a friend to be treasured, and he and Ma spend every day doing their chores and playing games like Scream where they yell as loudly as they can. Jack loves his Ma and Room, but he’s scared of Old Nick who comes some nights and stays with Ma in Bed while Jack sleeps in Wardrobe.

Jack’s Ma blows his mind by telling him that she used to live Outside, and that Old Nick stole her and brought her to Room seven years ago. She has a plan for them to get out of Room, but Jack can’t believe that the things he’s seen on the fuzzy TV screen for years are real. How can there be anything but him and Ma and Room?

The premise for this book sounds like something that a Stephen King or Dean Koontz would have come up with, and it certainly works as a kind of horror novel as Jack’s innocent depiction of life inside Room shows Ma to be the victim of a horrible crime that she is trying to shield her son from. What makes this so chilling and heartbreaking is Jack’s view of the Room as the entire world, and he has so adapted to it that the very idea of real people existing outside of it is something akin to blasphemy to him.

The writing here is exceptional, and Emma Donoghue makes what could be an over-the-top plot into a character based and all too plausible story. It’s creepy and chilling and terrible and intriguing and kind of sweet. Mostly, it's all kinds of messed up.

Perhaps the most horrible thing about Room is that Old Nick doesn’t believe in providing books because there’s plenty of TV to watch, and poor Ma is stuck rereading a few paperbacks like Twilight and The DaVinci Code over and over.

It’s a fate worse than death….
Profile Image for هدى يحيى.
Author 9 books16.2k followers
January 28, 2018

غرفة : عندما ترى العالم بعيون طفل

في كلِّ مكانٍ في العالم
ستجد عيون طفلٍ متسعة
تتلألأ فيها الرغبة في المعرفة
وتشم فيه رائحة الخيال

الجميل والمختلف في هذه الرواية ،هي أنّها يتم سردها عبر جاك الطفل الصغير
والسؤال هو كيف يمكن لبالغٍ أن يتحمل رواية كاملة
برؤية ،وبلغة طفل
لم يرى ضوء الشمس لسنواته الخمس؟

هنا تكمن براعة إيما

استطاعت أن تبقينا مشدودين مع هذا الطفل الظريف بلا ملل
بل ستندهش لرؤية العالم من خلال عيونه المندهشة
فهي ليست عينا طفل عادي
بل طفلٍ لم يعرف سوى شكل الغرفة التي عاش بها
ولم يتصور عالماً غيرها

يقول أنيس منصور
كل شيئ عند الاطفال له وزن ، له قيمة ، له فائدة
كُل شيئ مثلهم
طفل مليان حياة وحماساً
كلُّ شيئ يتحدث إليهم

وهكذا لم أشعر بقطرة ملل واحدة
وأحببت جو الرواية كثيراً

الوجه الآخر في القصة لفتاة شابة يتم اختطافها واغتصابها لسنوات في غرفة صغيرة
وهي والدة جاك أو كما تدللـه
Prince Jackerjack

في الليالي التي يقرر فيها نيك المغتصب\والده المبيت في الغرفة
ينام جاك في خزانة الملابس

تحاول الفتاة ابتداع طرقٍ للتسرية عن إبنها المسكين
فتخترع ألعاباً قدر ما تستطيع لتدخل البهجة إلى قلبه
كالركض في دوائر، والقراءة ،والتلوين ،وممارسة الرياضة
Everybody's damaged by something

في هذا المربع الصغير من الحزن ينمو جاك ،بذهن غافلٍ تماماً عن وجود عالمٍ خارجي
فهناك الغرفة ، وعالم التلفاز

حتى تقرر أمه الهرب فتبدأ في إخباره عن العالم الكبير الذي لم يعرفه قط
لتبدأ مغامرة جاك المدهشة والشُجاعة ،لتحرير أمه المسكينة

الرواية تتطرق أيضاً لما يطرأ على المخطوفين من تعلّق بخاطفيهم
فتحاول الأم الانتحار بعد نجاتها ،،وتشعر ببعض الحنين إلى خاطفها
ويحاول جاك مراراً العودة إلى الغرفة الصغيرة التي ألفها
خوفاً من العالم الخارجي الكبير جداً بالنسبة إليه
The world is always changing brightness and hotness and soundness, I never know how it's going to be the next minute

وشيئاً فشيئاً يعتاد الإثنان على العالم المجنون والواسع من جديد

في الحقيقة أمتعني جاك كثيراً بحواراته مع أمه
ذكية وبريئة ومضحكة
لم أتخيل أن تعجبني الرواية بهذه الطريقة
ولكن الطفل يعطيك دروساً لذيذة في الحياة
ويجعلك ترى الأشياء من حولك بنظرة مختلفة

لم أشعر بالملل مع لغته الطفلة الظريفة بل كنت مبتسمة معظم الوقت حتّى مع لحظات الحزن والقلق والتشوق لمعرفة مصيره وأمه

Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews40 followers
November 17, 2021
Room, Emma Donoghue

Jack lives with his Ma in Room, a secured single-room outbuilding containing a small kitchen, a basic bathroom, a wardrobe, a bed, and a TV set.

Because it is all he has ever known, Jack believes that only Room and the things it contains (including himself and Ma) are "real."

Ma, unwilling to disappoint Jack with a life she cannot give him, allows Jack to believe that the rest of the world exists only on television.

Ma tries her best to keep Jack healthy and happy via both physical and mental exercises, keeping a healthy diet, limiting TV-watching time, and strict body and oral hygiene.

The only other person Jack has ever seen is "Old Nick," who visits Room at night while Jack sleeps hidden in a wardrobe.

Old Nick brings them food and necessities. Jack is unaware that Old Nick kidnapped Ma when she was 19 years old and has kept her imprisoned for the past seven years.

Old Nick regularly rapes Ma; Jack is the product of one such sexual assault.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: سیزدهم مارس سال2014میلادی

عنوان: اتاق؛ نویسنده: اما داناهیو؛ مترجم: محمد جوادی، تهران، افراز، چاپ دوم سال1392؛ در412ص؛ شابک9789642436637؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان ایرلند - سده 21م

عنوان: اتاق؛ نویسنده: اما داناهیو؛ مترجم: علی منصوری، تهران، روزگار، سال1391؛ چاپ دوم سال1392؛ در336ص؛ شابک97896423744311؛

عنوان: اتاق؛ نویسنده: اما داناهیو؛ مترجم: علی قانع، تهران، آموت، سال1390، چاپ دوم سال1392؛ در357ص؛ شابک9786005941722؛

عنوان: اتاق؛ نویسنده: اما داناهیو؛ مترجم: حکیمه مردانی، تهران، امیرکبیر، سال1393، در389ص؛ شابک9789640016237؛

داستان، از زبان پسر پنج‌ ساله‌ ای، به‌ نام «جک» روایت می‌شود؛ او با مادرش، در اتاقی کوچک زندانی شده‌ اند؛ رمان، برگرفته از زندگی جنایتکاری «اتریشی» است؛ «ماما» و «جک» در این داستان سال‌ها تنها، در یک اتاق زندگی می‌کنند، و به همین برهان «جک»، شخصیت اصلی داستان، هیچ تجربه‌ ی راستینی‌، از جهان واقعی ندارد؛ او از زمانیکه به یاد دارد، تنها در آن اتاق است، و درکش از محیط، تنها به همان چهاردیواری پایان می‌یابد؛ «ماما»، که زن جوانی است، امید به رهایی دارد، و در روند داستان، در تلاش است، تا بتواند پسرش را فراری دهد؛ فراری که، موفقیت‌ آمیز انجام می‌شود، ولی مشکلات تازه ای را، برای پسری که هیچ درکی از دیگر آدم‌ها، و جامعه ندارد، ایجاد می‌کند؛ کتاب «اتاق» نوشته‌ ی «اما دوناهو (دون اهو؛» در پنج فصل «هدایا»، «برملا شدن دروغ‌ها»، «مردن»، «بعد» و «زندگی کردن» به نگارش درآمده است؛ براساس این داستان در سال2015میلادی، یک فیلم سینمایی موفقی، به کارگردانی «لنی» ساخته شد، که توانست، جای��ه‌ ی بازیگر نقش نخست درام، و بهترین فیلم‌نامه را، در «گلدن گلوب» به دست آورد، و در چهار رشته، نامزد «اسکار» شود؛ «اما دون اهو»، نویسنده ی «کانادایی ایرلندی» داستان، کتاب «اتاق» را، با الهام از یک حادثه‌ ی واقعی هولناک، که برای زنی، به نام «الیزابت فریتزل» رخ داده است، به نگارش درآورد؛ او این داستان هولناک را، از زبان «جک»، پسر شیرین پنج ساله‌ ای، روایت می‌کند، تا فضای تلخ داستان را، از زاویه‌ ی نگاه تازه ای، به تصویر بکشد؛ این نویسنده، در این داستان بارها نفس را، در سینه‌ ی‌ خوانشگر، حبس، و او را، با داستانی متفاوت، روبرو می‌کند؛ این کتاب، پس از انتشار جوایز، و افتخارات بسیاری را برای نگارگر کتاب، به ارمغان آورد، و در همان سال، به فهرست نهایی «بوکر سال2010میلادی» راه یافت، و به‌ عنوان یکی از پرفروش‌ترین کتاب‌های «نیویورک‌ تایمز» معرفی شد؛ همچنین این داستان، جایزه‌ ی «اورنج انگلیس»، در سال2011میلادی را، هم دریافت کرد

نقل از متن: (دست در دست همدیگر، از خیلی مسیرها عبور میکنیم، و اجازه نمی‌دهیم، ماشین‌ها لهمان کنند؛ دوست ندارم کسی دستم را بگیرد، بعد مادربزرگ پیشنهاد خوبی دارد، اينکه در عوض، زنجیر کیف‌دستیش را بگیرم؛

خیلی جیزهای زیاد در دنیا وجود دارد، اما باید برایش پول بدهی، مثل مردی که در یک دکه ایستاده، و چیزهایی را در جعبه‌ های بزرگ و کوچک می‌فروشد؛ کارت‌های قرعه‌ کشی، که شماره دارند، احمق‌ها آن را می‌خرند، به امید اینکه، میلیون‌ها دلار برنده شوند

از اتاق پست تمبر می‌خریم، و عکسم را که در سفینه‌ ی فضایی گرفته‌ ام، برای مامان می‌فرستیم؛ به یک آسمان‌خراش می‌رویم، که دفتر کار «پل» است؛ می‌گوید واقعاً سرش شلوغ است، و برایم آب‌نبات می‌خرد؛ آن‌هم از ماشین خودکار فروش شکلات و خوراکی

با آسانسور می‌رویم پائین، فقط با فشار دادن یک دکمه، که من این کار را انجام می‌دهم؛ به یک اداره‌ ی دولتی می‌رویم، تا مادربزرگ کارت امنیت اجتماعی تازه ی خود را بگیرد، چون قبلی را گم کرده است، آنجا سال‌ها و سال‌ها منتظر می‌مانیم؛ بعد مادربزرگ، مرا به یک کافی شاپ می‌برد، که آنجا لوبیا سبز ندارد، یک شیرینی، به بزرگی صورتم انتخاب می‌کنم؛ یک بچه دارد ممه می‌خورد، تا حالا ندیده بودم، بهش اشاره می‌کنم، و می‌گویم: «من سمت چپی رو دوست دارم، تو چطور؟» اما بچه به حرف‌هایم گوش نمی‌دهد

مادر بزرگ مرا عقب می‌کشد

از این بابت متأسفم

زن روسری‌ اش را می‌کشد روی صورت بچه، و دیگر نمی‌توانم ببینمش

مادربزرگ زیر لب می‌گوید: «خیلی چیزها خصوصی هستند.»؛

بعد، با «دیانا» و «براونین» به پارک می‌رویم، تا به اردک‌ها غذا بدهیم؛ «براونین» تمام تکه‌ های نان توی پلاستیک را، خالی می‌کند، و حالا نان‌های مرا می‌خواهد، مادربزرگ می‌گوید، بهش بدهم، چون او کوچک‌تر از من است

دیانا می‌گوید درباره‌ ی دایناسورها متأسف است، حتماً یک روز به موزه‌ ی تاریخ حیات وحش می‌رویم

وارد فروشگاهی می‌شویم، که فقط کفش دارد، اسفنج‌های رنگی که سوراخ سوراخ است، مادربزرگ می‌‌گوید، یک جفت را امتحان کنم، زردش را برمی‌دارم. بند ندارد، و خیلی راحت است؛ مادربزرگ پنج دلار بابتش می‌دهد، بهش می‌گویم، خیلی دوستشان دارم.)؛ پایان نقل

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 21/10/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 25/08/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Tulpesh Patel.
48 reviews70 followers
September 30, 2010
Based on, or ‘inspired by’ shocking cases like that of Josef Fritzl, Room is the story of a boy, Jack, born and raised with his captive mother in a 12 foot square room. Narrated by the boy himself, it’s a child’s eye view of a small world housing a great deal of imagination, pain and love.

Packed with the emotional punch and occasional humour that comes with having a child narrator, comparisons will inevitably be drawn to John Boyne’s The Boy with the Striped Pyjamas. In my opinion, Room surpasses that book because the protagonist feels more real; Donoghue accomplishes the job of not only getting inside the head of a child, as Boyne very cleverly, but more cloyingly did, but she also has a protagonist who’s only experience of the world is a television with four fuzzy channels and his mother’s stories, which adds a whole new, tougher and more horrific, dimension.

In describing the lives of these two captives in this tiny room, Donoghue exercise as much, if not more, imagination than creators of entire universes, like Tolkien. The tiny attention to detail paid to their room and Jack’s description of it, makes it an all too real and terrible place.

It’s not really a plot-driven book, although I found my heart racing on several occasions, desperate to find out what happens to this dear, naive little boy. It is definitely a book that is difficult to write about with revealing spoiling for those who are yet to enjoy it. At its core I guess it’s about the indomitable human spirit, but there is a palpable sadness and desperation that makes gripping but painful reading. There is more violence contained in a muttered line about cork floorboards than a dozen Bret Easton Ellis novels put together, a true testament to Donoghue’s skill at creating empathy for Jack and his mother.

Room definitely deserves its place on the Booker Prize short-list but it is far from perfect. The focus on the two central characters leaves others in the novel feeling like broadly painted caricatures. There are also some clever post-modern allusions to the cult of celebrity, which provide neat satire, but these are tangled with occasional moments, largely towards the end of the novel, where Jack’s voice feels a just a little too much like the author’s commentary on modern life, rather than simply Jack’s view of the world.

I very much agree with the Audrey Niffenegger quote on the sleeve: “When it’s over you look up: the world looks the same but you are somehow different and that feeling lingers for days”. Several times since finishing the book I’ve wondered about the scale of my own world and what lies beyond it – having never seen them, are the Pyramids only TV?
Profile Image for Baba.
3,615 reviews984 followers
October 26, 2022
Jack is about to celebrate his fifth birthday in a Room with his Ma. They have been in this Room every second of Jack's life so far. This is just the beginning of their story, Jack's fifth birthday.

This Man Booker prize shortlisted novel is a masterpiece as it ultimately portrays the power of maternal love under the most dire conditions. Recommended reading for all, just on the basis that there's hardly anything out there like this... as it is written from the five year old Jack's point of view! 8 out of 12.

2011 read
Profile Image for Deanna .
687 reviews12.5k followers
June 6, 2016
I read this book a couple of years ago and it remains a favorite. Hearing that it's being made into a movie is intriguing. I'm always excited/anxious when this happens as I worry that it will replace some of things I loved most about the book...if that makes sense.

This book had such a hold on me that I finished it in two sittings. After I was done it was all I could think about for days and still think about quite often. Dora the Explorer was on TV as I was flipping channels the other day and I immediately thought of this novel again.

Told from the point of view of five-year-old Jack (child-speak and all) was unexpected but ended up being wonderful. It took a little time (maybe 10 pages) to get used to following Jack's train of thought but after that it was easy. He stole my heart! I was drawn into their private world right from the beginning.

Even though Ma is not a main voice in the novel a vivid picture is given from Jack's descriptions. I could feel the love she had for Jack while she struggled to keep it together for herself and her son. I was so impressed by her resourcefulness and how she even helps Jack somewhat thrive in a place she desperately wants to escape.

An amazing and heart-wrenching story of love and survival. Although there is much dark subject matter I felt it was handled gently. My emotions were wrung out and it truly made me thankful for my freedom and the freedom of my child. It kept me tightly gripped and on the edge of my seat until the very end. Definitely an extremely riveting and powerful read that I highly recommend.

Favorite quotes:

“I don't like a clever toilet looking at our butts.”

"Before I didn't even know to be mad that we can't open Door, my head was too small to have Outside in it. When I was a little kid I thought like a little kid, but now I'm five I know everything."

Profile Image for Jason.
137 reviews2,345 followers
March 23, 2012
Have you ever see that 1997 film Life Is Beautiful? No? Well, it’s about this Italian Jew who is sent to a concentration camp with his wife and son during World War II, and in order to shield his son from the horrors of war, he tells him that they are really just playing a super fun game and that everyone in the camp is a contestant. Not surprisingly, his son believes the whole thing (kids are pretty dumb, right?) and he is able to maintain this ruse right up until the Allied invasion. So, Room is kind of like that except without the Allied invasion. Here you’ve got this 5 year-old kid whose mother feeds him a pack of lies to prevent him from knowing the truth about their actual state of existence—which is that they are trapped in someone’s backyard shed and probably will never see the light of day again. My inclination is to mention what happens next, but then I think I would be doing the book a disservice. What I can say, however, is that the entire novel is narrated by the 5 year-old schmuck, and while this may sound like it could be annoying, it really isn’t. I enjoyed the unique perspective, especially since my engagement with the adult dynamics of the story was still somehow maintained. That’s a pretty impressive feat for an author.

But at least 5 year-olds can be good for something: the “red couch in the TV planet with the puffy-hair lady that’s the boss asking questions and hundreds of other persons clapping” is by far the best description of The Oprah Winfrey Show I’ve ever heard.
Profile Image for Cecily.
1,137 reviews4,169 followers
June 8, 2017

This seems to be a real Marmite book (love it or loathe it, with no fence-sitting), so I'm going to mix my metaphors: I bit the bullet, to see which way the wind was blowing and was surprised to find myself sitting on the empty fence. I was very undecided about stars, but there are many much better books I've given 3*, so this gets 2*, even though there was, on reflection, more to it than I first thought. The quality of the writing is not sufficient for 3*.

Overall, I think it’s poorly written (exacerbated by the way Donoghue tries to use unusual language for specific effect), but it is something of a page-turner, it’s quite a quick read (unless you overempathise, get depressed, and need a break) and it does contain some interesting ideas, especially in the second half about aspects of coping with “freedom” (though I am unsure how many are taken directly from news reports and interviews with former captives, and how many are her own).


The situation is well-known: a twenty six year old woman, “Ma”, is living with her five year old son, Jack, in a tiny locked room. She has been there since she was abducted aged nineteen, and the story is narrated by Jack. They have daily visits from their captor, who brings meagre supplies, though they do have a TV and half a dozen books. Jack thinks reality is everything in their room, and that everything “in TV” is pretend.

The first half of the book is set in Room (yes, with a capital letter and no article (“a” or “the”), like most of the few objects in their lives), and the second half is on the outside. It is clearly influenced by the recent news stories of Natasha Kampusch and Jaycee Lee Duggard etc, and that potentially prurient aspect did hold me back from reading this book for a long time. But I subsequently learned that Donoghue has said she was more influenced by the Fritzl case, which seems odd, because that was fundamentally different, as the abductor, imprisoner, and impregnator was the father of the young woman (more than one, initially).


Right from the start, I found the narration annoying - not because it's by a 5-year old, but because he's such an unconvincing 5-year old. For example, he has a very good vocabulary for his age (fair enough), and yet there are a few really basic words that he seems not to know (instead of "a man" or "the woman" he refers to "a he" and "the she" - except on one occasion when he unaccountably gets it right), and he often gets irregular past tenses and word order wrong, in the way that children younger than five often do (“I winned”, “we knowed”, “I brung”, “why you don’t like” and to a driver, “may you go us please to…”). Furthermore, he repeatedly makes these errors despite his mother's diligence in correcting his grammar and the fact he watches TV.

It’s almost as if you can see Donoghue weighing up the need for Jack to be intelligent and insightful enough to tell the story in an engaging way (which, to a large extent, he does) with the need to tick certain boxes to make it clear he is just a small child. Similarly, we’re expected to believe that Jack points out “a dog crossing a road with a human on a rope” and thinks someone lighting up is trying to set himself on fire, even though he’s had TV and a mother who has tried to teach him about the (fictitious) world.

The fact Jack is still breastfed is not surprising: it’s comforting for both of them. What is surprising though is that the word itself seems to be taboo (instead, he talks about “having some”, without ever saying what), and yet he’s happy to use the words “penis” and “vagina”, and is open about bathing with his mother. That may sound like nit-picking, but it’s an example of the sort of thing that frustrated me. I just didn’t feel Donoghue had really thought it through thoroughly. If you’re going to play with language to make your point, you need to be able to do so convincingly.


The book is in five sections, though really it falls more naturally into two: inside and outside.

The relationship between mother and son is touching and the book opens by establishing the routines and rituals of their restricted life, including the almost liturgical way they say “good night” to all their (few) possessions: “Good night, Room… good night, Rug” etc. The creativity required to raise a child in a confined space with such limited resources are impressive, too (they blow their eggs, so the whole shells can be threaded to make a snake, and do PE using their limited furniture as gym props).

Initially, and in some ways, their life doesn’t seem as bad as you might expect, and even the first appearance of their captor (“Old Nick”) is relatively benign. That reflects the way Ma is raising Jack in the most positive way she can. Of course, we know something of the real horrors of the story, and they are discussed, though never in graphic detail, in part because Jack’s comprehension is limited, and in part because of Ma's success in shielding him from the nature of the situation.

I thought the escape was badly done, but much better is the when, leading up to it, Ma has to explain to Jack that what he’s seen “in TV” is real. They go through a confusing process of “unlying” as she tries to prepare him for what might follow an escape.

Once outside, it’s superficially about the practicalities of adjusting to the real world, but really it’s questioning the nature and price of freedom. I found this part had more interesting ideas, but contained more implausibility of plot (though I’m no expert in such matters) and very flat new characters. In particular, the method and speed with which the police locate Room was absurd, and also some of the logistics, practicalities and oversights of those charged with their care and settlement on the outside were dodgy, such as the first planned trip for these traumatised celebrities being to a museum with an uncle whom Jack had only met once!


The reader roots for Ma and Jack to escape, and they do (no spoiler – the book blurb tells you). Hooray! But of course they soon discover a new form of captivity: medical/psychiatric, hiding from fame, and so on. And this is where it gets interesting and starts to feel more plausible. Jack’s only knowledge of outside is from occasional TV programmes, and Ma’s is from seven years ago, when she was a carefree student, rather than a traumatised mother. Jack has to discover the world, and Ma has to (re)discover a new version of herself; she tells Jack, “I know you need me to be your ma but I’m having to remember how to be me as well”, to which he replies, “But I thought the her and the Ma were the same”. Similarly, having more, can leave one feeling impoverished: Jack is puzzled when Ma cautions him to be careful of something her brother gave to her, “I didn’t know it was hers-not-mine. In Room everything was ours.”

Some of the things they struggle to cope with are not ones that would initially have occurred to me (germs, sunburn, stairs), and one effect is to make it almost as if Jack has acquired Asperger’s syndrome: he can’t filter the multiple stimuli of a busy world; doesn’t understand social conventions, etiquette, and privacy; is confused by relationships and pronouns (“The ‘you’ means Ma, not me, I’m getting good at telling”); takes common idioms literally (such as “I’m afraid so” and “get his act together”, but surely some cropped up from Ma and TV?); doesn’t like being touched or having to wear shoes; is borderline agoraphobic; increases his counting-his-teeth stress-relieving tactic; is uncoordinated from poor spatial perception; and feels insecure without routine. Jack asks, “But what’s the rule?”, to which he is told “There is no rule.” That’s a liberating idea to Ma, but scary to Jack. He misses Room and his few possessions because it’s all he’d ever known; Ma, understandably, wants to leave it all behind both literally and in even from conversation and memory. When he has nightmares, the doctor says “Now you’re safe, it’s [the brain] gathering up all those scary thoughts you don’t need any more, and throwing them out”, but Jack disagrees, “actually he’s got it backwards. In Room I was safe and Outside is the scary.”

Another aspect is how Ma’s family react. The girl they knew – and thought dead – has been replaced by someone similar, but different, and they have Jack to contend with. Ma loves him unconditionally, despite his parentage, but if you were her mother or father, how would you feel about this constant reminder of what happened?

To sum up, this wasn’t as prurient as I feared, and it was very thought-provoking, but it could have been SO much better.


The only occasions I've preferred a film to the original book are where I didn't enjoy the book. I'm told the film of this is excellent, especially the boy who plays Jack. A couple of friends, who knew my reasons for disliking this, have almost persuaded me to see it. I don't think I'll pay money to watch it in the cinema, but once it's on TV, I might. With the right cast, and subtle direction and dialog, I may change my views of what should be a powerful story.

Profile Image for La Petite Américaine.
207 reviews1,442 followers
March 22, 2015
Room has been called "remarkable," and "sensational." It was not only shortlisted for the Booker Prize, but it was also chosen as a Favorite Book of 2010 by our fair goodreads community, proving once again that heads are up asses in of literary critics and readers everywhere.

How this book is anything but blither is beyond me.

The reality is that the plot for this book was ripped from the headlines, based on the stories of Jaycee Dugard, Natascha Kampusch, and the Fritzl family. Emma Donoghue was given a $2 million advance to write Room. With cash in hand and only a plot outline, clearly no one gave a shit if the final work were good or not. What a better way to save face than to tout a piece of crap book you actually paid someone to write as a "gem." UGH. In the end, all we have is yet another author exploiting and getting rich off of the real life tragedies of others. I suppose I wouldn't mind so much -- hey, I may even cheer it on -- if it were done well. In this case, it was done horribly.

You see, if you truly do want to hear the blabbering of a 5 year-old for 300 pages, then you immediately need to change careers and become a kindergarten teacher. Look. It takes talent to write in the voice of a child, which is precisely why so few authors are successful at it. When a good author writes from a child's perspective, the book becomes a classic. Think about it. J.D. Salinger, Harper Lee, Roald Dahl, and James Joyce. As for the rest of them? The child narrator is nothing more than a laughable gimmick.

Emma Donoghue falls flat on her face -- and drags us down with her -- for an entire novel with that very gimmick. I don't have patience for "silly penis is always standing up in the morning. I push him down," nor "penis floats," and especially not "my poo is hard to push out." I don't care for rambling recounts of Dylan the Digger and Dora the Explorer, either. Further, I found it odd that a child who is remarkably well-versed in the narrative would have such huge inconsistencies in his spoken English, many times sounding like a 3 year-old while at other times having perfect grammar. Huh? Finally, I got rather annoyed by Capitalizing Nouns and Other Objects in the Room, I found it Distracting and Annoying, and to me it screams Piss Poor Writer. Don't forget to throw in some of Donoghue's own politics for fun: our 5 year-old is still breastfeeding and he loves to tell us which boob produces the creamiest milk. Don't be disgusted. After all, it's natural! And let's not forget the most blatant and frankly, lame, self-insertion by an author into her own novel: Noreen is a kind and clever nurse who hails from merry ol' Ireland, just like our author. BARF.

Forgive me for not passionately hating this book more. Quite simply, it bored the hell out of me. I spent half the time wishing someone would throw the narrator back in the room so he'd shut the hell up. I spent the other half wanting to slap Donoghue's publishers. Suffice to say....

Profile Image for Mith.
284 reviews978 followers
May 14, 2012

Profile Image for Whitney Atkinson.
940 reviews13.9k followers
July 24, 2016
This book was as interesting and twisted as I hoped it would be! The writing style was slightly jarring and I got one sentence into the audiobook before going NOPE (annoying child voice... argh), but I did end up enjoying it once I got further into it!

This book's main selling point is that it's not just your average trauma story of being locked in isolation-- it's told through the eyes of a child, and that room is all he's known for his entire life. I went into this expecting almost a thriller, a "will they get out of that situation???" type of storyline, but I was wrong. This follows more of a "can they get out, and when they do, can they live normally in the outside world after being locked up for so long?" And I liked that version more than I thought I would. Although half way through this book it wrapped itself up and felt very weird to continue onward, I did enjoy seeing the character progress throughout the end of the book, and although I wish we could have seen from someone other than Jack's perspective (he got exhausting and frustrating after a while), I think this would be a REALLY good book to discuss amongst friends and I'm sure the movie is very jarring.

There were certain points that gave me chills so bad that I had to put the book down, just because the severity of what these characters went through was so chilling, and all of it is undermined by the fact that the entire thing is told from the perspective of someone that's too young to understand. I just think this book brings up great controversies, was a tragic story of a mother and son who had to go through hell, and it was just as gripping and unforgettable as I hoped it would be. My only complaint is the pacing throughout the middle of it, and Jack's voice growing irritating after a while.
Profile Image for Mohammed Arabey.
709 reviews5,723 followers
August 25, 2017

A Book Room to Remember.. Definitely will change how you see the world after leaving it.
قصة، بل حجرة ما أن تخرج منها ستتغير نظرتك للعالم

As Jack saying Good-bye, Room., I felt really sad leaving..

I became a "Roomer".. As Jack & his Ma.
“When I was a little kid I thought like a little kid, but now I'm five I know everything.”
Our Amazing Narrator, Jack, when he turned five he learns a shocking truth about his whole 5-years life..
“Jack, Yer a wizard captive.”

Yes, he has been born in Room where his Ma been captive for seven years by the maniac "Old Nick" - which is BTW a nickname for the Devil in Christianity in the 17th century-.

He's never been outside... all his life with his Ma in Room, and frequent visits of Old Nick who brung brought them their basic needs.. and Sunday Treats..
Room is all his real world.. it doesn't even has windows, just a skylight.. that's all what he can see of outside.

For him Outside is not real, is outer-space, fantasy .. is just TV.
“When I was four I thought everything in TV was just TV, then I was five and Ma unlied about lots of it being pictures of real and Outside being totally real. Now I’m in Outside but it turns out lots of it isn’t real at all.”

The First Half of the novel is how this miserable life is going on... but no matter how miserable, when you see it with the eyes of 5 years old Roomer like sweet great smart Jack..it's so fun, it's so good...yet my heart ached a lot..

You'll feel how amazing job the Ma did to make Jack smart, well educated, healthy, have a fine Art touch, Eating well...Reading well too..

His Ma is simply the best Ma in the World.....
“You know who you belong to, Jack?”
He’s wrong, actually, I belong to Ma.”

You'll see how this week of his 5th Birthday goes on.. in amazing Wide-Eye Jack's narrating.. till he's whole life changes..

This First part may feel irritating for some.. but really the amazing narrating of Jack made me love it so much.. it's may be slow but I felt fun slow reading it.

Wait, I hear you feel it's weird case anyway..hard to believe..
You'll be shocked when you hear there's cases like this really happens.. haven't you read Elisabeth Fritzl's case before?
“All this reverential—I’m not a saint.” Ma’s voice is getting loud again. “I wish people would stop treating us like we’re the only ones who ever lived through something terrible. I’ve been finding stuff on the Internet you wouldn’t believe.”

Anyway, The Second Half is faster and full of changes...
“The world is always changing brightness and hotness and soundness, I never know how it’s going to be the next minute.”

I won't spoil it to you... but despite how crazy everything happens in the middle of the novel, it's hard to think of alternate way out.. it was the thrilling part that made me literally on the edge of Chair reading it..

And it's brilliant seeing the novel in two halves, this second half Jack's narrating is shocked seeing how wide,wild World can be...

"Want to go to Bed."
"They'll find us somewhere to sleep in a little while."
"No. Bed."
"You mean in Room?" Ma's pulled back, she's staring in my eyes.
"Yeah. I've seen the world and I'm tired now.”

He's may be 5 years old, A Roomer, but he's totally right about the world..
How we never have time for any thing...
“In the world I notice persons are nearly always stressed and have no time. Even Grandma often says that, but she and Steppa don't have jobs, so I don't know how persons with jobs do the jobs and all the living as well.
In Room me and Ma had time for everything. I guess the time gets spread very thin like butter all over the world, the roads and houses and playgrounds and stores, so there's only a little smear of time on each place, then everyone has to hurry on to the next bit....”

How we really care less than we think..
“Also everywhere I'm looking at kids, adults mostly don't seem to like them, not even the parents do. They call the kids gorgeous and so cute, they make the kids do the thing all over again so they can take a photo, but they don't want to actually play with them, they'd rather drink coffee talking to other adults. Sometimes there's a small kid crying and the Ma of it doesn't even hear.”

How we pretend..all the time on many things.
“When I was four I thought everything in TV was just TV, then I was five and Ma unlied about lots of it being totally real. Now I'm in Outside but it turns out lots of it isn't real at all.”

How Cruel our world can be....
“But the thing is, slavery’s not a new invention. And solitary confinement—did you know, in America we’ve got more than twenty-five thousand prisoners in isolation cells?”

How Sad we're judging people without a clue of their own lives.. It's really sad.. and how Crazy and obsessed people are sometimes..
“Ah, you asked why, Jack? Because there's a lot of crazies out there.”
I thought the crazies were in here in the Clinic getting helped.

The Bottom Line

It will really make you think deeper into our "Huge Room" we're locked into..
To think twice before judging anyone..
To just go hug your mom so passionately and just keep saying Thank you.... to Hug your kid and really care for everything they say or want.

The strange kidnapping here was not real, but it's not totally strange from our crazy world...
There's even more misery in this world not just in captive...but just more than what Jack and his Ma been into..even crueler and crueler..

“Stories are a different kind of true.”

I really didn't want to finish this book, this super sweet or supweet -as Jack and his Ma likes to make words sandwiches- narrating of the smart Scave "will forever be more brave than scared" Jack, who brung brought us this amazing story.. with his deep 5 years -and three weeks and half's wisdom...and his funny idioms.
“'... where there's one there's ten.'
That's crazy math.

“I bang my head on a faucet. “Careful.”
Why do persons only say that after the hurt?

This story really can make you feel something wrong...something missing on our way we live..

“Everybody's damaged by something.”

But that's simply how good novels are..
��Really, a novel does not exist, does not happen, until readers pour their own lives into it.”

So finally,
So Good-bye, Jack..
Good-bye, Jack's Ma..
Good-bye, Grandma, Steppa.
Good-bye, Dr.Clay, Noreen, Officer Oh :).
Good-bye, Paul,Deanna, Bryanna.

Good-bye, Dylan The Dagger, Alice, Books.
Good-bye, Bed, Rug, Duvet, Rocker, Table, Sink, Bath, Cabinet & Wardrobe.
Good-bye, Walls..

Good-bye, Room.....

Good-bye, Book.

Mohammed Arabey
From 10 May 2017
To 18 May 2017
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,301 reviews43.9k followers
July 13, 2021
One of the movie critics defined the Room as a state of mind that’s unbearably tense and as claustrophobic as straitjacket. Definitely suits with the entire concept.
The movie hit me so hard. I adored performances of Brie Larson as Ma ( pre suiting up to be Captain Marvel times but she deserved that golden statue, didn’t she) and angelic Jacob Tremblay as Jack. Actually Jack’s inner world he created in the room and his new life at the outside world were completely disturbing parts of the story because he was captured by a mad man who raped her several times but it seems like he created a safe and happy place in this room by living with her mother but at the outside world: he never set a foot in the door, the more challenges were expecting him: he was rapist’s kid and this could bring out hatred, resentment, anger which are boiled inside the people who are affected by traumatic incident including ma’s family.

I’m so happy to see Emma Donoghue was the screenwriter who adapted her own book to big screen. With the powerful performances that reflected the emotional depths of the characters, we realistically resonate with the compelling traumatic situation the mother and her child are getting through.

When I read the book I find the life in room parts a little slow and I somewhat agree with some critics who tell Jack’s inner monologues didn’t honestly reflect a five years old’s mind. But also we shouldn’t forget this child is not an ordinary five years old kid. He never sees outside. Her mother created a world inside their cage a.k.a. room with several activities, proportionated meal times, less tv watching, more extracurriculars to help her child to be like his peers when he’s dealing with extremely claustrophobic circumstances.

When the book adapted into the script the problem of slow burn story telling picked its face up and so the boredom we felt during our reading solved itself.

I have to admit the book was still intriguing and vividly disturbing but the original real life story behind it is more blood freezing, horrific! True story of young Australia woman Elisabeth Fritzl who had been imprisoned by her own father for 24 freaking years at a basement, the same father repeatedly raped her and impregnated her seven times and caused one miscarriage!!! Three of her children had been imprisoned with their mother for their entire lives till they rescued. And Elisabeth lost one of her child because of lack of medical attention child needed.

The story between two lines and different worlds: inside the room and outside the room.

It is still shaking you to the core, disturbing, giving you nightmares kind of provocative story.
I still think Emma Donoghue achieved an amazing job by telling this compelling story with her unique voice. Especially reflecting a captive young boy’s voice is the most challenging thing and argumentative subject. But she tried something unique, complex and she reached to our hearts and minds at the same time!

Especially the movie adaptation was the great combination of emotional performance and chilling, horrifying story based on true events.

I think this book is still a hit for me. I don’t reread it because it’s still too disturbing but it’s worth to read at least one time if you are psychologically ready to absorb the things you’re gonna read!

Giving my claustrophobic, straitjacket, high tension, Oscar worthy stars!
Profile Image for Luffy (Oda's Version).
765 reviews757 followers
December 5, 2016
I willed myself to read this particular book in double quick time. I won't say what happens in the end, but the ending was dependent on the second half of the book, where we got to know one of the two main characters in the book.

There is Jack, and then his mother. Curiously enough, Jack is the narrator, and his POV is unique. He lends strength to his mother, he makes her shine with her patience, her fortitude, and her bravery. I have yet to watch the movie version, but it's no coincidence that the actress playing the role of Ma, Brie Larson, got the oscar for best actress this year.

Jack is sometimes gullible sometimes not. Sometimes he expresses curiosity. The latter sentiment is the driving force behind a child's growth. Us adults lose something when we have understood our version of the Room. We are not impressed by a child's sense of wonder. This book, I believe, addresses this case, among many others. Room is a must read.
Profile Image for Michelle.
139 reviews46 followers
November 7, 2011
This book didn't have a chance with me.
1. It was written from the perspective of a five-year-old boy.
2. For the first two thirds of the book the kid was annoying.
3. The mom breastfeeds the kid a lot. I counted twelve times before I stopped counting. The kid creeped me out by talking about which boob tasted better.

Why read it?
It was this month's selection for a book club I am part of. It wasn't my pick.

Why two stars rather than one?
Well, I'll be damned if I didn't start to feel sorry for the poor kid and like him despite myself. A writer who can do that to me deserves an extra star.
January 30, 2020
The amazing introspection of a child in an exceptional situation that endures it thanks to the love of a mother and human adaptability.

I do in general read mostly plot-focused books and if one is character-based, it has to be extremely popular, highly suggested or good-rated or has a unique plot and fresh ideas. I couldn´t imagine how a credible description of the point of view of a child could be described in such a setting and how the mother orchestrated their small world and how she had to react to the childs´ smartness to keep the semblance of an idyllic world intact is amazing.

The real-world inspiration is so disturbing that it is hard to deal with it, especially when using extrapolation and probability. There are quite a few humans on the planet and many disappear, so the number of such cases is close to impossible to seriously estimate, but it could even go so far as that not just one, but many generations are living in such conditions for decades or even centuries, a kind of family tradition of incestuous underground breeding and sex slavery.

And how the victims suffer under the danger of miscarriage, having a probably disabled kid by their own brother, uncles, fathers, grandfathers, cousins,… and never seeing the light of day. The disturbed monsters who do that combine some of the worst crimes such as slavery, rape, and probably sometimes murder to satisfy whatever this perversion is and where it may come from.

From now on it gets a bit disturbing because I am adding some real-life facts that might be too hardcore for some readers.

There have been many documented cases of remote societies of families going totally bonkers, but it could, of course, be, as in the real case that inspired the novel, the normal neighborhood in a peaceful suburb. I mean, imagine that 20 to 25 meters next to your garden was an underground dungeon you didn´t know about until the police found out and nobody can be sure that there is none, still unknown and undiscovered. The smarter, charismatic serial killers all had a reputation of being loving, caring, active in their communities and charity organizations, great fathers and husbands, inspiring, successful,… just to seem as unsuspicious and normal as possible to stay below radar level, and faked all emotions, manipulative sociopaths/psychopaths they were.

I´ve read something pretty disturbing regarding the fact that all knowledge is now so easily available on the internet and that nothing lies closer for such demons than to study all errors and flaws of predecessors, get knowledge about investigation methods, psychology and anything needed to not get caught. Probably one wouldn´t even have to visit the dark/deep web and just normal, publicly accessible information, but since we are already there, some more mindf***.

Some of the information I´ve collected about the dark/deep web shows that there are no nonprofits, duh, but companies with a normal business model and highly illegal and horror products. The rest is the same, there are forums, something like different amazons for anything illegal (do they have free shipping?), social networks, comment functions, rating systems and active participation and monetizing by filming for decades how the own daughter and grandchildren are held as sex slaves.

Technically highly skilled users are close to impossible to track down, as the progress in technology helps them to stay anonymous and they, just as with faking social life, have a very high motivation to become experts and have tendencies to get jobs that enable them to get skills, such as physicians like anesthetists to hold someone drugged forever or software engineers, and or to work close to humans in social jobs to get their livelong kick each time they enter a room with students or pupils or kids.

Tropes show how literature is conceptualized and created and which mixture of elements makes works and genres unique:

German Wiki article:

Profile Image for Annalisa.
547 reviews1,375 followers
July 30, 2011
Wow. A book hasn't swallowed me whole like that in a long time. This one will be haunting be for awhile. I wish I could tell you what it's about, but I wish I hadn't read the back cover 30 pages or so into and changed my own perception. It's best to figure it out along with the story.

I will say that it's about a 5-year-old boy who has never left the room where he lives. His whole world is Room and Bed and Rug. It's a little jarring to read from his point of view and I was worried I wasn't going to be able to get into his story, but once I became accustomed to his voice, I couldn't put his story down. And his story wouldn't have the power it does without his perspective. We think about these type of stories from other perspectives, but never from his. Never from the child who is comfortable in his world that we know is all wrong. The child that never wants to leave his strange circumstances when we understand why he should.

Most of the time his naivete was right one, but there were occasions where Donoghue used his voice to explain something that I didn't buy into him understanding. I wish she would have trusted her reader more to see the discord of reality and his perception instead of using Jack to interpret his mother's emotions or the sequence of events. I loved the juxtaposition of reality and his interpretation and would have liked more of them. There were also some plot twists that didn't ring entirely true, but I so believed Jack that in the end it didn't matter. There is one point where the plot takes a turn in a different direction from Jack's perception but Jack's reality is so real, you don't even consider other options. That's when I knew I'd follow Jack anywhere.

Maybe it's the unusual perspective or the strong voice. Maybe it's that I know what it's like for a child to change your world. Maybe it's that right now I feel trapped in my own room with my own baby. Maybe it's that Jack's relationship with his mother is so different from own experience and I was both shocked and saddened by their bond. Or maybe it's that Donoghue made me think about the world in a way I never have before. But whatever it is, this book grabbed my attention and wouldn't let it go. I related to Jack's story when I couldn't possibly know what his life is like. It's difficult to make the humdrum of ordinary life day in and day out inside an 11x11 room exciting, but Donoghue manages to keep my intense attention.

Some of the things Jack made me think about were the autonomy of parents and children and how the line is different for a child than it is for parents. It's what sometimes causes conflict, things like that moment when as a parent you have to discipline where your child thinks of you as a friend. How we put our lives on hold for our children, but there is this whole other self that will eventually wake from slumber. What a parent should share with a child and what we should keep secret. How education is a good thing, but also a little magic in the world is good too. How children are smart enough to understand honest answers, but sometimes not mature enough for complete answers. How children think of their families and circumstances as normal no matter how unusual it is. It usually isn't until you move away that you learn that the givens of your own family aren't sacred. It makes you consider the world around you in a whole different light.

While some of the events in the book are disturbing, I don't think they're too disturbing. Jack's innocent voice saves us from the horror that this story could be. It's not about all the things lost in Outside. It's about wanting to stay in and safe. And it's about the power of maternal love. Because of that, the story has redemption and hope and happiness.
Profile Image for karen.
3,988 reviews170k followers
October 5, 2019
here's a confession:

if i voted for your review of this book before today, i had not fucking read it. oops, sorry! (upon quickfast, sherlockian investigation, i now know that only means two of you - and i read the first half of both of them before, i swear, and have now read them in their entireties) but i didn't want anything spoilt for me. i didn't want to know if the book was triumphant or devastating or funny or tragic or philosophical or melodramatic. i wanted the tone to be surprising, i wanted to avoid preconceived notions.

and hurrah - i got what i wanted.

now i am considering your feelings. do i think you (collective, anonymous) would benefit from a similar experience? do i dare presume?

i do, but...

but i will discuss it in what i hope will be an oblique way. if you don't know the plot of this book by now, after all the hype and acclaim, you have yourself probably been living in an 11x11 room held captive by a bad man. despite its being told entirely in the voice of an extremely sheltered five-year-old boy, it is more a meditation on motherhood and necessity and where the separation occurs between mother and child; what is the act that cleaves mother from child and allows each to lead their own individual lives? and where is the line between protection and deprivation? and what can be done with unwanted eggshells?

this book is excellent.

but i don't want to get too caught up in possible rooners. i myself want you to be like nell, all pure and speaking your own bizarre stroke-language, not knowing anything about the greater world, where this book exists. in this scenario, i am the baaaad man.

and i am okay with that.

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Kevin Ansbro.
Author 5 books1,467 followers
October 23, 2019
"Is that God up there?"
-Felix Fritzl, upon seeing the moon for the first time since leaving the cellar he had been imprisoned in.

ROOM for improvement.
2.5, bumped up to 3 stars (and that's being generous)
This life-affirming, but at times frustrating, story is told from the POV of Jack, a five-year-old boy whose universe is a room that he has never left, and which he shares with his mother.
What Jack doesn't initially realise is that both he and his mum are incarcerated (she, a victim of a kidnapping; he, the product of a rape at the hands of her captor).

Wonderfully told is the indestructible love of a mother for her son, borne from the helplessness of her situation.
Not so good are the stark inconsistencies in the boy's grammar.
Yes, he's only five, but he's stuck with a grown-up for twenty-four hours a day, so why on earth is his dialogue so infantile?
"Why am I hided away like the chocolates?"
Oh, give me a break! What five-year-old speaks like that, let alone one who exclusively converses with an adult?

You do have to suspend belief for a large part of the story. Jack's baby talk made me wish his mum would put a dummy (pacifier) into his mouth and the plot descended into inconceivable farce.

The book sets out with good intentions, but (for me) it becomes tedious after a while.
I applaud Donoghue for her courage in tackling such a difficult topic. Her writing, other than Jack's dialogue, is exemplary.
It could have been so much better.
Profile Image for Steph.
262 reviews264 followers
July 21, 2015
A novel narrated by a five year old? I'm not a kid person at all so do not think you need to be a mother to appreciate this story. There is something about Jack's way of looking at Room and at Outside that is refreshing instead of irritating. It's nice to not be dragged down by all the complexities of an adult narrator for a change and I know I would have given this story less stars if it were told through his mother's eyes. This is a story that Jack needed to tell and I am very happy that he did.
Profile Image for emma.
1,864 reviews54.3k followers
October 6, 2021
The rare literary fiction / popular fiction crossover that's worth the hype on both sides.

Everyone has talked about this book so much and no one has talked about it in 10 years and so that is all I have to say.

Bottom line: It's good! Either you've read it already or you probably aren't going to.


somehow in my recollection this book was even worse, which is honestly kind of impressive if you ask me.

review to come / 3.5 or 4 stars

currently-reading updates

if "i read this a while ago and don't remember a thing about it" isn't a good enough reason to read a book, don't tell me now
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