Monday, April 11, 2011

Room, by Emma Donoghue: Impressions

Photo by me + instagram

When I bought Room on a whim at a local bookstore Friday night, I only thought I'd read it soon, in the near future, maybe in the next couple of months. I was skeptical of the hype, and yet I'd avoided reading almost anything about it either for fear of spoiling it or out of distaste for the plot's basis.  When I picked it up on Saturday and read the first 30 pages, I thought this book would take me a while. The subject matter was gruesome, the point of view unfamiliar and hard to see through, and the seemingly monotonous details of life in captivity strange and tedious at best. And yet, Sunday I could not put it down, and today I could not wait to finish it.

Once I grew accustomed to 5-year-old Jack's peculiar voice, the story drew me right in. Donoghue managed to turn the can't stop staring at the tragic train wreck story into a poignant, intelligent and gripping tale, wrought with all the likely reactions such characters would have. For those who have not read the book nor heard much about it (is that possible?), Room tells the story of Ma and Jack held captive in an 11'x11' room for years, including the whole of Jack's existence. Jack's entire reality consists of only what he encounters in that room-he doesn't even know to wonder about the outside world-something his mother has done to protect him from wanting what he can't have. The only other human he knows about is Old Nick, who turns up for semi-regular nightly visits, during which time Jack stays mostly hidden in the wardrobe.

The novel took me on something of an emotional roller-coaster, which I normally don't appreciate, but here I never felt manipulated. Events were somewhat softened since they were told through the curious and innocent eyes of a child not meant to understand the horror of his situation. I am not sure I'm ready to spoil the story for anyone that hasn't read it, but I'd definitely recommend it to almost anyone, aside from those for whom the subject matter might hold triggering topics.  You'll find yourself exasperated with the characters as if you actually know them. You'll find humor in strangely uncomfortable places. Mostly, you'll find a smartly imagined story told by an astute observer and skilled word-weaver.


  1. I've been meaning to read this - I think it's time.

    -- Ellen

  2. I like your linke "You'll find humor in strangely uncomfortable places". Very well put. I personally had some trouble with Jack as narrator but at the same time, the story wouldn't have worked if it wasn't from his point of view.

    By the way, I love the photo that you used for the book. The lighting on it is fantastic.

  3. Great review, Zeteticat. Thanks for not rehashing the plot since I've already read its summary a million times over on other blogs. Your description "you'll find a smartly imagined story told by an astute observer and skilled word-weaver" really makes me want to pick up this book.

  4. You have to love those books that dare you to read them. I haven't read ROOM yet, but I understand the state of mind it put you in. I call that a meaningful read. Might not be "pleasant" in the literal sense of the word, but it's morphing a little part of you.

  5. Ben: Books that dare you to read them - that is what Room is! Excellently stated. Yes, not a pleasant read, but one that makes me feel slightly different, slightly more well-rounded, slightly more resilient for having read it.

    Ellen, Brenna, and Ben: do read it when your schedule allows - definitely well worth it. Though, as I said, I completely understand the disinclination to pick it up.

    Red: Yes, Jack was very hard to get used to at first, but after 40 pages or so I no longer noticed since the story was so engaging. And thanks about the photo! Iphone + instagram + white shades do wonders.

  6. I absolutely intend to read this one. I even have a copy sitting on my shelf. I'm not sure what I'm waiting for, but I'm looking forward to whenever I do actually pick it up!


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