Tulpesh Patel's Reviews > Room

Room by Emma Donoghue
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it was amazing
bookshelves: literary-fiction

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?
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
September 28, 2010 – Finished Reading
September 29, 2010 – Shelved
September 29, 2010 – Shelved as: literary-fiction

Comments Showing 1-6 of 6 (6 new)

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Laura I agree with you, towards the end Jack starts noticing that people are always in a rush, that they don't play with their kids...


message 2: by Ben (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ben Nice review.


message 3: by Tracy (new)

Tracy Johnson What a shame about the spoiler - part of the mystery of this book is you dont know what's going on


message 4: by Tinjo (new) - added it

Tinjo Segui Bravo, without giving too much of a spoiler, you have given a glimpse of the book and what you thought about it.


message 5: by Jcb (new) - rated it 2 stars

Jcb Agree that there was a certain amount of creativity in constructing world inside Room, but the mother just creates a mini-preschool setting. Luckily, unlike the problems actual preschool teachers or real parents face, Jack never seems to throw tantrums or be disagreeable much at all. Ma gives him a quick workout during "phys ed," and he's pooped. Wish my own kid would be that convenient.


Ruci Tukana Indeed! Could not agree for more!


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