Thursday Reviews: Room by Emma Donoghue

RoomRoom by Emma Donoghue

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After my husband and I saw Black Swan he said that it was a great movie…but he never wanted to see it again. This book is like that for me. The writing was beautiful, the POV creative, and the story shattering. But it was emotionally unbearable. Which is a testament to the wonderful talent of Emma Donoghue. She chose subject matter that was daring, told the story in charming way, and still managed to convey the gravity and humanity without bonking me overhead with the horror of it (while somehow bonking me overhead with the horror of it).

Early on in the story I found myself furious with Ma. Little bits of me went: Why haven’t you bashed this guy’s (the kidnapper, “Old Nick”) brain in? Why aren’t you breaking the skylight? Why Why Why Why? In short, my irritation came from asking the exact questions that can’t be answered by someone who has not been in that situation. (Unless, apparently, you’ve got Donoghue’s skill.) Those questions were answered throughout the story and, boy, did I feel like an @$$ as they got answered.

Probably the single complaint that I can make about the book as a whole is that Jack’s voice can get tedious. Sure there’s some grammatical questionability in a lot of five-year-olds’ speech, but Jack’s presented as a kid who can quote Alice in Wonderland, so some of it felt heavy-handed after a while, to me. It starts out strong in the beginning and then it filters down throughout. Then, in the narration there are some Britishisms that don’t popularly ‘pop’ up in American dialects–like ‘duvet’ and ‘pop in’. I know, that sort of minor thing just sounds like bitching in the midst of such a wonderfully conceived and delivered story, but there it is.

So, I loved it. But I’m so emotionally affected by it that I won’t read it again (probably). I hope that the victims of real-life situations like this find peace. And my thoughts, prayers, and hope are with them.

P.S. Congrats to Emma Donoghue and Room’s Indie prize!

View all my reviews

Emma Donoghue Room Thursday Reviews

jenny maloney View All →

Jenny writes dark fiction that her mother hates. Her stories and essays have appeared in Across the Margin, Pantheon, Shimmer, Black Denim Lit, Skive, and others. When she’s not writing her own stuff, she’s reading mysteries for Criminal Element. When she’s not writing fiction or reviews, she’s writing/directing/performing/designing plays at Springs Ensemble Theatre.

3 Comments Leave a comment

  1. I guess I liked it too. It does make you uncomfortable. My biggest gripe is that it felt like the story peaked around the half-way point and the rest of the book was almost an epilogue. Still, worth reading if only for that first half.

  2. I hadn't thought of it as an epilogue, but that is kind of what the second half was like. Especially toward the end it seemed like Donoghue wanted us to know that these guys would be okay (read: more normal) eventually.

    But what I really, really dug about the second half was that the mom never seemed able to get out of the Room. Jack was sort of a lock. She couldn't get away from him in the shower, in bed, whatever.

    I think the second half showed how easy it is to get locked into one space and never get out of it again. Once they were out of THE Room, they were always in another room. Though I think this is also the area where Jack's voice got tedious for me….

  3. I had the same experience of wanting to yell at Ma. She'd been there 7 years. Why not try all the combinations on the lock? Then I went, “oh!”

    While not exciting, I think the second half did an excellent job of showing what happens after a traumatic event. It should all be good now, right? But people question what you did to put yourself in that situation. You've got this little reminder with you all the time. You love him, but can you ever look at him without remembering?

    It also shows how resilient kids are. Jack wasn't traumatized by Room. It was home. Outside? Now that's scary and big and loud. But he adapts much better than Ma does.

    Good luck getting it out of your head any time soon. I still find myself thinking about it, and I read it last September.

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