Tatiana's Reviews > Room

Room by Emma Donoghue
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's review
Sep 14, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: 2010, contemporary
Recommended to Tatiana by: Booker nomination
Read from October 28 to 30, 2010

** spoiler alert ** I am always reluctant to read books about kidnappings and captivity. The y can get too emotionally manipulative. Too often such books become almost unbearably violent (memories of Living Dead Girl and Tender Morsels still make my skin crawl) or unrealistically light and a tad misguided (I am in a minority in my assessment of Stolen: A letter to my captor, but I do think the setup of this book is far from reality). But Room gets and portrays such an experience just right IMO. I guess this is why it snagged a Booker nomination.

Of course, the personal story of a 19-year old girl kidnapped and held captive for 7 years in a confined space of 11 by 11 ft, is horrifying. But it is told from a POV of her 5-year old son Jack who is sheltered to the extreme, even from the captor, and whose childhood had been practically idyllic. Jack's life in Room is full of adventure, games, play, and studying, and, most importantly, great times with his loving Ma. He doesn't comprehend the horror his Ma has to live through, he doesn't know why he has to sit in the closet and count while Old Nick comes over to "jump on Bed," he doesn't understand why his Ma would ever want to leave their Room. But we do.

Jack's perspective is definitely the most unique aspect of the novel. The topic of kidnappings is in vogue right now in literature (And no wonder, just google the words "kidnapping" and "captivity." These are the kind of atrocities that come up:



so it is pretty hard to create a work of fiction that will distinguish itself among others on the subject. But Jack's "voice," with his unawareness of the outside world, inability to understand that this world is not limited to 11x11 sq. ft, space, and lack of social interaction with anyone but his mother, is a wonder and the strongest point of this book.

Another important issue Room touches upon is what happens after the escape. The escape is only the beginning of the journey to recovery, if such a recovery is at all possible.

Room is undoubtedly a hard book to read, and yet it is at the same time a hopeful story, a story about unwavering love between a child and a mother, and about new beginnings.

As for the Room's chances of winning Booker, they are pretty slim IMO. I don't think it well qualifies as literary fiction. Good popular fiction - yes. The subject matter is just too commercial and worn out to create any significant literary impact.

This an interesting essay by Emma Donoghue about the research she did for the novel

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Reading Progress

10/28/2010 page 17
10/30/2010 page 240
75.0% 2 comments
02/07/2016 marked as: read
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Comments (showing 1-17 of 17) (17 new)

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message 1: by Rosanne (new) - added it

Rosanne Thanks for the review. I agree completely with your overall ideas about this type of story. I'll have to read this one when I am in the right mindset.

message 2: by AH (new)

AH Great review. I'm always afraid to read these kinds of books. They seem too real to me.

Tatiana I don't think there is anything in the world as horrifying as this sort of thing. And it seems to happen so often in reality...

message 4: by AH (new)

AH Funny, I'll read books about demons, vampires, and other scary creatures. The real life stuff freaks me out more.

message 5: by Megan (new)

Megan AH wrote: "Funny, I'll read books about demons, vampires, and other scary creatures. The real life stuff freaks me out more."

Right there with you, AH! The books that could happen in real life usually make me both frightened and angry.

message 6: by Catherine (new)

Catherine Very nice review, Tatiana.

AH wrote: "Funny, I'll read books about demons, vampires, and other scary creatures. The real life stuff freaks me out more."

Me too. That stuff scares the crap out of me. Especially now that I have kids!

message 7: by Milly (new)

Milly Wow! Definitely an informative and helpful review! Thanks for taking the time to be comprehensive! I too am fearful of reading these types of books! It can get very depressing and disturbing. Same reason why I can't watch the 'Saw' movies.

Michelle♥ I absolutely LOVE reading your reviews, not only because we usually have the same opinion, but you're so brutally honest!

I agree about reading the "real" stuff and being more freaked out! After reading Room I had a nightmare about being kidnapped. I couldn't give this book more than two stars though. I just could not (or I guess would not?) except the fact that that was the end. I could not believe she left us all hanging.

I read the link you posted and I guess I'm a little more grateful for the intensity she took on her research but my God. You went through all and rolling up your own kids in a rug and you couldn't give us a better ending than that? Sheesh. Haha ok sorry. I literally just finished it at midnight and I didn't have a goodnight's sleep.

I don't think I'll be picking any of these books anytime soon or ever again.

Morgan how violent is this book? I am contemplating reading it, I am 14, I can handle violence to a reasonable extent to the point that I like books with murder twists at times I admit (not sexual violence, eww)
Do you think I should give it a go? or is it too mature?

Tatiana There is sexual violence (the book is about a woman who was kidnapped by a psycho and kept in a tiny room), but it is not particularly graphic.

Unfortunately, I have no idea, Morgan, what kind of books you read and if this one would be too disturbing for you.

Morgan thanks

i am going to play it safe and skip it sadly probably :(

Annalisa Hey Tatiana. I hadn't realized how many kidnapping stories there are out there until you pointed it out. I agree that Jack's voice is what sets this story apart. I finished it last week and I'm still thinking about it. Incidentally, you may want to consider a spoiler alert for the second half of your review. Hope all is well. It's been awhile since I've been on goodreads and connected into the reading community.

Tatiana Hi Annalisa! Long time no see. You must have been very busy lately. Everything is just fine on my side, hope you are fine too and are planning to be back full time:)

I will mark the whole review is spoilery. Thanks for bringing it my attention. It's been awhile since I read the novel, don;t even remember what is and isn't spoiler any more.

Annalisa I'm doing well. I had a baby in April so it'll be awhile until I'm myself and full time. I seem to skim without commenting more than anything lately. One of these days :).

It's the escape that's spoilery (love that word). In the book, you aren't sure they will get out. I've been hesitant the read from a few friend reviews that thought the content was too much. I didn't think so at all. I thought the voice was perfect for that.

Tatiana Please accept my belated congratulations. This is indeed a valid reason for a disappearance:)

I agree, to my surprise, this book turned out to be much less stressful than I'd thought originally. Jack's perspective brightened up this topic for sure.

Annalisa Thanks :). I didn't exactly announce it on goodreads. I have a 10-year-old so it's been quite the adjustment starting over. She's pretty cute though. I worried reading this book as a mother, both of a newborn and a girl at the age these horrible crimes start but it didn't have that tone which I appreciated.

Cecily Congratulations, Annalisa.

As for the violence, I don't think it's even slightly graphic: that's the advantage of the narrator being a 5-year old, who doesn't really understand, or even see.

On the other hand, the disadvantage of Jack's narration is that it doesn't always ring true, at least for me, and I found that irritating.

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