Room by Emma Donoghue

room featTo 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.

NOTE: This review contains minor spoilers.

This book tells one of the most powerful, striking and unsettling stories I have read. This is caused to some extent by the topic of kidnapping and abuse, but what sets the book apart from similar stories is its narrator. Room is told entirely from Jack’s perspective. With his striking five-year-old way of speaking, Jack tells the reader about many things he does not understand, such as the squeaking of the bed or why his mum turns the light on and off at night. This makes for an intense atmosphere, where the reader understands the horror of Jack’s situation, but he doesn’t. For him, Room is the entire world. Only slowly Ma begins to uncover the world that she so deliberately hid from him.

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.

This novel does not only give a vivid and shocking description of life in a single locked room. Room is a story of love and parenthood and what happens when your world suddenly expands from a small room to an entire universe It raises questions about ‘keeping someone ignorant for his own good’, the greater meaning of confinement and unconditional motherly love. When Ma wants Jack to help with her escape plan, she first has to explain where she wants to escape to. Because of his confinement, Jack offers a unique perspective on our contemporary society. Through Jack, Donoghue draws attention to everyday customs that many people find too ordinary to even consider. She not only comments on gender-related issues but also on time-management and the way people talk to each other or treat their children.

Room is both horrible and terrifying, sweet and endearing, leaving an unsettling aftertaste that lingers for days.

 

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