Review of Room by Emma Donoghue

IMG_5111I loved, loved, loved this book. The clever narration allows the reader to witness the atrocities of the Room through the skewed perspective of a five year old child. The first half of the book is set in one room where the reader sees the way that Ma has tried to protect her son from the truth or their situation. Unlike Ma, Jack has never known the outside world and believes that it only exists in the TV. He has anthropomorphised the items in the room and sees them as his friends. For me, this brings into question whether the human instinct for socialisation is in fact nature rather than nurture. Jack has only ever had a relationship with his mother and yet he seeks friendship with objects and cartoon characters.

The second half of the book follows their escape and subsequent adjustment into the world. Jack, at times, misses the closeness of his mother and their isolation. Ma also has trouble dealing with life after her release and attempts suicide. I am glad that the story didn’t end with their escape because much of the long term damage of their imprisonment is explored once they are ‘free’.

I read this book as it’s on my MA reading list for the module of ‘Reading as a writer’ and so I thought about what I have learned or what I can take away from the book from a writing perspective. The book is a triumph and I could write all day about the things the author does well, so I have narrowed it down to three things I particularly like.

Firstly, I admire the author’s use of a child narrator. She captures the nuances of a child perfectly. She also has a good insight into child language acquisition as some of his language reflects his lack of socialisation. Jack’s language becomes more fluent as the novel progresses and he begins to interact with others. In my  novel, half of the story is told from the perspective of a child (although not as young as Jack). I hope to study Donoghue’s technique and will try and make my character as believable as Jack.

Secondly, her use of dialogue is good and helps to ‘fill in the gaps’ of the story that can’t be fully understood by the narrator. Being a child, Jack doesn’t understand that their situation is unnatural. Through his narration coupled with the dialogue, the reader is able to deduce what is happening.

Lastly, her use of setting is obviously an achievement as the first part of the book is set only in one room. Using a limited setting allows the reader to fully explore the characters and how they are dealing with their confinement. Moreover, the room becomes a symbol of their relationship for the past five years once they are released. It has been intense and almost suffocating. It is one Ma is keen to change but Jack clings to it faced with the uncertainly of the ‘real’ world.

All in all a brilliant book. I would highly recommend reading it if you haven’t already. 🙂


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