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BOOK 11: Room

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message 1: by Rachel (new)

Rachel | 111 comments Mod
Here's the discussion thread for 'Room' by Emma Donoghue. Discussion day is this Sunday, March 6. Discussion questions to come.


message 2: by ashley (new)

ashley (corridor89) | 12 comments Mod
Here they are! Feel free to add more if you have any in mind.

1. What is the effect of the book being told from Jack's perspective? Do you think it would have been too disturbing if it was from Ma's perspective?

2. What effect does the story being told in present tense have? Did you like it or not?

3. Throughout the book, Ma and Old Nick's real names were never revealed, and the location of the story was kept ambiguous. Why do you think things like this were done? What effect did they have?

4. Were you surprised that they were rescued so early in the book? Do you like that there was such a heavy focus on Jack's integration into the outside world?

5. When they were rescued, Jack was thrown into a world that was completely new and alien to him, and Ma returned to a world which she thought would be familiar, only to find that it had changed. Which circumstance do you think would be more difficult?

6. Which parts of the book did you find the most distressing? Were you surprised by this?

7. Have you seen the film? What are your thoughts by way of comparison? Was one version more effective than the other?


message 3: by Rachel (new)

Rachel | 111 comments Mod
i loved this book. a very solid 5 stars. i was a bit wary going into it, since it’s a subject i feel would be easy to sensationalize and be depicted in a way that spares no gory details, but for how horrifying of a story it is, emma donoghue presented it in a way that was both sensitive and hard-hitting. it was really a masterclass in ‘show, don’t tell’. a very harrowing read that will stay with me for a long time.

1. What is the effect of the book being told from Jack's perspective? Do you think it would have been too disturbing if it was from Ma's perspective?

i was wondering about the perspective during the ‘room’ half of the book, at this point i found jack’s narration a little annoying and i wondered why the author chose to tell the story like this. once they were rescued it clicked for me - obviously it had to be told in jack’s perspective, because this story isn’t about the imprisonment itself as much as jack’s integration into this new and alien world.

in a lot of ways i found the story even more disturbing from jack’s perspective, despite (because of?) his innocence to the horrors of his situation. i guess what was disturbing was how normal it all was for jack, how he didn’t even realize what his situation was depriving him of. it was also a bit more shocking, i think; ‘room’ is hardly the first novel about a girl who’s kidnapped or sexually abused, but to give the narration to her child was a real game-changer, i felt. it was a bold and shocking and somewhat disturbing choice, but i felt that it really suited the story.

2. What effect does the story being told in present tense have? Did you like it or not?

i loved it. i tend to favor present-tense novels anyway, but it really was the only solid choice here, i felt. it added a sense of urgency - you never knew if they were going to be rescued, you never knew if everything would turn out okay, despite wanting it to, because the story is still unfolding.

3. Throughout the book, Ma and Old Nick's real names were never revealed, and the location of the story was kept ambiguous. Why do you think things like this were done? What effect did they have?

i think this fits in with what the above questions were asking; it’s all about how it’s jack’s story, and to jack, names and places are never the point. it lent the novel a sort of ~universal element... obviously the book is about jack and ma who both have individual identities, but there's also such a significant commentary on society and human nature.

4. Were you surprised that they were rescued so early in the book? Do you like that there was such a heavy focus on Jack's integration into the outside world?

i was very surprised!!! for a book called ‘room’ i was thinking the entire book would take place in room, and they might be rescued at the very end. i was positive their first rescue attempt would fail. what a pleasant surprise, at first, to see them rescued, only to realize that donoghue spared nothing in the way of the disturbing reality of their situation, even in the outside world. i did love that there was such a heavy focus on jack’s integration into the real world, because that’s something i didn’t really think about at the beginning of the novel. it’s so easy to think ‘everything will be okay when they’re rescued,’ but you come to realize how much of a gross simplification of the situation that is.

5. When they were rescued, Jack was thrown into a world that was completely new and alien to him, and Ma returned to a world which she thought would be familiar, only to find that it had changed. Which circumstance do you think would be more difficult?

this is such an interesting question and something that i think the book really managed to explore in a fascinating way. both ma and jack faced their own set of unique challenges, but if i had to choose a situation which i felt would be more difficult, i would probably choose ma’s reintegration into society. jack had this wariness which gradually wore down, but ma had this initial euphoria which ended up being difficult to reconcile with the reality of her new life.

6. Which parts of the book did you find the most distressing? Were you surprised by this?

one thing i found fascinating was how when they were rescued jack kept asking when they were supposed to do xy and z, and ma said ‘there are no rules here.’ and then in the following weeks, jack kept discovering new ‘rules’ that were completely foreign to him. it was such an interesting commentary on society, i thought, i.e., what does it mean to be ‘free’, exactly? obviously everyone would rather live in the real world than be imprisoned in a shoebox, but it’s interesting, really examining the limitations that come with living a free life. donoghue did a really fantastic job of showing the shades of grey where this story was concerned, it was a lot more exploratory than ‘room = bad, real world = good’, which i found fascinating and a bit disturbing. for that reason, i found the 'post-room' half of the book more disturbing, i think because the 'room' half was exactly what i was expecting, while the second half seemed to present page after page of new and unanticipated challenges.

7. Have you seen the film? What are your thoughts by way of comparison? Was one version more effective than the other?

FILM SPOILERS IN THIS PARAGRAPH: we watched the film a couple of weeks ago, after i finished reading the book, and while i felt that the film was a decent adaptation with some very excellent performances, there was something about the tone of the book that it didn’t really manage to capture. it’s like what i’ve been saying about how the second half of the book wasn’t much easier to stomach than the ‘room’ half of the book. in the film, however, once they were rescued i felt like… that was it, really, there were obviously a set of challenges, but it ultimately didn’t feel like there was much at stake, whereas in the book you really understood the unique set of difficulties that came with adjusting/readjusting into this new world. it didn’t help that the film sort of ~sanitized a lot, i thought, e.g., the situation between ma’s parents was a lot cleaner in the film and a lot easier for ma to come to terms with. everything was wrapped up a bit too nicely in the film, i thought. it was a good attempt at an adaptation, but it didn’t quite capture what was so harrowing about the book.


message 4: by Chelsea (new)

Chelsea | 42 comments Mod
I really enjoyed Room and it was a very definite five stars for me as well. I was very uncertain going into this book and worried that the subject matter would make this a very dark read, so I was pleasantly surprised by just how well the unique perspective of the story being told from a child's perspective worked to get across the story and do so in a way that didn't take away from how horrific a situation the kidnapping and adjustment back into the world would be, but at the same time providing some moments of light and love. I was particularly struck by the ingenuity of Ma, who manages to raise a son and both protect him and teach him as best she can in this limited environment, and in the ways she passes the hours by creatively coming up with ways for them to exercise and learn and entertain themselves without relying on the television set.

1. What is the effect of the book being told from Jack's perspective? Do you think it would have been too disturbing if it was from Ma's perspective?

I definitely think the story would have been darker if told from Ma's perspective. Part of why this works so well is that Jack is, because of his age and the limitation of his world and understanding, a narrator with a limited perspective. Some of the horrors, like Old Nick's rape of Ma, it's not hard for the reader to read between the lines and understand what's happening even when it's not explicitly spelled out by a boy narrator. The author trusts her readers to put this together. While Jack's narration works well within the world he knows so well for the first half of the novel, it almost works even better once he's away from what he knows. The yearning for Room and for the familiarity of his world is so heartbreaking, and the things we take for granted that Jack's just being introduced to, or doesn't know about really made me think.

2. What effect does the story being told in present tense have? Did you like it or not?

Like the narration choice, I don't think the story would have worked as well in the past tense. Setting the novel in the present tense definitely added a sense of urgency, particularly during the escape where the reader isn't sure if the effort will succeed or not. I also think that it would be harder to explain logically the event for event telling if this story was being told after the fact considering how fallible memory is generally, but especially the memory of a child.

3. Throughout the book, Ma and Old Nick's real names were never revealed, and the location of the story was kept ambiguous. Why do you think things like this were done? What effect did they have?

I thought it made sense for the novel because Jack's whole world consisted of him and Ma and Old Nick and the rest was "TV", so location never mattered to Jack because what else was there outside of the room he lived in? And with names the revelation that his mother had another name was such a strange moment for Jack and I found that very true to life. I also didn't feel like it was information that I missed at all while reading?, as in I wasn't thinking oh I wonder where this is taking place? so I found everything fit very well within the narrative voice.

4. Were you surprised that they were rescued so early in the book? Do you like that there was such a heavy focus on Jack's integration into the outside world?

I was a little surprised yes! Like Rachel, I thought the first escape attempt might fail, so I didn't see the rescue coming. Looking back though, I thought the decision to spend the rest of the book adjusting to life outside the room was extremely wise since I thought the child narration and how to pass the days in room plot was just starting to wear when the escape plan was introduced.
The integration of both Ma and Jack into the outside world was both fascinating and really hard to read at times. Ma's initial ease with the outside world and then seeing her interact with family and do so with a child and how it makes everything real and she has to do more than just survive and protect her child but to cope with what's happened to her. It was extremely moving I found. And of course there's also Jack trying to adjust, and doing so for part of that time without Ma, who has been his entire world. I really like that the author didn't shy away from the aftermath and the trauma that this kind of experience would leave.

5. When they were rescued, Jack was thrown into a world that was completely new and alien to him, and Ma returned to a world which she thought would be familiar, only to find that it had changed. Which circumstance do you think would be more difficult?

This is such an interesting question and one that's difficult to answer. I think Jack has it very hard initially as his entire worldview has been turned upside down and he's meeting more people in an hour than he had seen in his entire life before, and obviously that's a huge adjustment, but I also think memory in childhood is probably less sharp and some of the memories will dull with time and he's young enough to still integrate into society. By the end of the novel he obviously still has progress to make but has come leaps and bounds from his initial state. I think Ma's experience is more difficult ultimately because she has the knowledge of what she missed, what was stolen from her in those years, while Jack is only beginning to understand that their situation wasn't normal. She has to learn how to fit back into her life and what to do with it now while the path for Jack is more straightforward.

6. Which parts of the book did you find the most distressing? Were you surprised by this?

I definitely expected the half of the novel after the rescue to not be as distressing as they were because I think the reader's initial reaction is phew they're free and of course it's not actually that simple, there is all of the aftermath and re-adjustment, and the trauma to deal with. I also found little reminders like Jack's slip-up in forgetting that oh right Sunday Treat won't be happening anymore, hard.

7. Have you seen the film? What are your thoughts by way of comparison? Was one version more effective than the other?

I haven't!! But I really want to! Maybe this week!


message 5: by Julia (new)

Julia (ixtaire) | 10 comments Late post is soooooooo late because school and traveling and I am the worst, but here I go anyway!

I definitely enjoyed Room more than I thought I would when I started it. I didn't really enjoy the writing style at first but it grew on me. It was definitely interesting to see a book like this from the child's perspective, and I think it had a very different tone to the movie because we could get deeper into Jack's mind through text. I don't generally like present tense in books, but it worked well here specifically because it helped to capture Jack's perspective.

I was really surprised that Jack's escape attempt actually succeeded, and that Jack's mom was still alive when they found her. I did like it, though. I feel like a lot of stories centered around abuse tend to end the moment the abuse ends and the aftermath and recovery is rarely touched upon, and if the story had ended as I expected it to (dramatic door of Room being cracked open by a rescue worker or killing Old Nick and escaping) I would have been left with a lot more questions and generally felt kind of dissatisfied with the ending.

I saw the movie not long after reading the book and I liked it a lot, but I do think that it has a different tone than the book does. Obviously it's more difficult to force the audience to understand things through Jack's child's perspective in a movie, where they can actually see and hear what's going on.


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