By Emma Donoghue
- Date finished: Dec. 11, 2014
- Genre: Fiction
- Year: 2010
- Project: n/a
- Reading List: Winter 2014-15
- Grade: A+
- Thoughts upon reading:
Room was one of those books that came out a few years ago, that, despite all the hype (which usually turns me off), still caught my eye. It was a psychological thriller with a premise that sounded absolutely fascinating, and all the reviews sounded great.
And it was great. Great, great, great. Room is the story a five-year-old, Jack, who was born as the product of rape to a woman who’s been held hostage in a small garden shed for seven years. Growing up, this room is Jack’s universe and all he knows of the world – anything ‘outside’ that he sees on TV is a fantasy, “not real”. His mother tells him these lies as he grows up to protect him, and to ensure Jack has a somewhat happy childhood – which he does, to an extent. Then one day, his mother decides to escape, and what ends up happening is both thrilling and heartbreaking.
At first, I wasn’t sure what grade to give this book. The part of the story, which takes place in the room, felt claustrophobic and very tense, and it understandably affected me so. It felt like reading Pet Semetary all over again, and I wasn’t sure if I was enjoying the reading experience. But then, I knew that this book deserved an A+ the morning I was reading of Jack and his mother’s escape; I was in my car, killing a few extra minutes before heading into work, and I was literally yelling, “Oh my God! Oh my God! He’s running away! Go, Jack!” It was a little ridiculous, but from then on, I was hooked.
The strength of Room, though, lies in its narrator – Jack. This truly is a terrifying, disturbing story, but reading about it from Jack’s perspective changes things in unexpected ways. Jack is not scared of being trapped in ‘room’ – ‘room’ is all he knows. He loves ‘Rug’, and ‘Bed’, and the Dora he watches on TV – they are his universe. It’s only when he’s ‘outside’ that Jack is frightened; all he knows of the ‘outside’ he – for a very long time – believes is ‘not real.’ And so when he feels grass for the first time, feels the sun on his face, see a car, it’s not only the “experiencing” that’s scary, it’s the act of convincing himself that these things he’s seeing, and feeling, and hearing are real. It’s an interesting way to approach this story, and in fact, I think it makes both less terrifying but more heartbreaking.
Room is one of those books I’d recommend to a lot of people, though I would warn them that it can be a bit intense. But it’s good – it’s really, really good.