Room by Emma Donoghue

room by emma donoghue

Arrived back in Sydney on Sunday and it’s been super frantic catching up with life. I have a couple of unfinished reviews in draft, but to keep up to date with the recent events for once, I’m going to talk about Room NOW.

If there were a modern book fairy, it must work like this: wish upon a star send an email to the Big Man and express your wish to read the book, forget about it, and get the book in the mail unexpectedly. Well that’s what happened to me. Thanks Pan MacMillan AU! Regular readers know that I rarely ever read books published in current year. This time however, I made an exception, for the book was screaming, Read Me, Read Me.

I started reading a couple of days before I left for Indonesia and finished it on the plane on my way there. The flight was around 7-8 hours and I did not let it go once. The hell with in-flight entertainment!

Told from the point of view of a 5 year old boy, Room is a page turner in the truest sense. Jack is born in 11×11 feet Room and lives inside with his Ma. Room is his entire world, the only world he knows. While Ma is aware of the horror they are going through, for Jack Room is a place of safety, the only place that is real.

The story is inspired by the Fritzl case, a case which fascinated me since I first heard it. The whole imprisonment and sexual enslavement of own daughter is truly mind-boggling. Donoghue however, opted to not include the incest factor. And by telling the story from the child’s point of view, it becomes a rather unsentimental almost adventure-like tale. You don’t have to worry about anything graphic. I thought there would be much more emotion in the book, but there wasn’t, which is a good thing in this case. It’s the type of book that make you think, rather than feel.

I was a bit impatient at the beginning about the description of their day to day life and Jack’s voice felt somewhat gimmicky. But the pace started to move quicker after the circumstances have been fully introduced and he really grew on me. I was very fond of him at the end and satisfied with the ending.

The inclusion of Room in the Booker shortlist was a nice surprise. I’m not sure if it’s literary enough to win the prize, but I think once in a while they need to take a chance and go ahead with guts. I would bet my virtual money for Room to win. Hah! :)Emma Donoghue

4.5 stars
2010, 321 pp

Shortlisted for 2010 Man Booker Prize

First line
Today I’m five.

Quote (possible spoiler)
“Also everywhere I’m looking at kids, adults mostly don’t seem to like them, not even the parents do. They call the kids gorgeous and so cute, they make the kids do the thing all over again so they can take a photo, but they don’t want to actually play with them, they’d rather drink coffee talking to other adults. Sometimes there’s a small kid crying and the Ma of it doesn’t even hear.” ~ p287

Also reviewed by
Farm Lane Books Blog
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31 thoughts on “Room by Emma Donoghue”

  1. It is the rare book that will keep me awake during a lengthy flight, but I have a feeling this would probably do the trick! I’ve read such great stuff about this one, that I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on a copy… and I’d also like to read some of Donoghue’s older works as well while I’m waiting!

    Also, glad to have you back! I hope Indonesia was a blast!

    1. Steph, though I liked this book a lot, I’m not convinced to read other Donoghue’s works yet, but you never know. Hope you get to read Room soon. Thanks for the welcome back. It was fun! :)

  2. It was slow to start for me too and it did feel gimmicky; I also had to orientate myself to “Jack-speak” where he almost personified objects (the capitalised nouns).

    I think it is too “readable” to win the Booker but I suspect that this year’s panel are far more concerned with good reads than their academic properties and may just surprise us. I would be pleased if they did; even if Room is not necessarily my idea of a Booker winner and wouldn’t hold up in comparison to previous winners, I found it exceptionally enjoyable and, yes, every bit the page-turner.

    1. Claire, sounds like we have the same reactions and opinions about Room. The bet to win the Booker was kinda tongue-in-cheek, but who knows, they might surprise us! :)

  3. I m not overly sure on this one ,read good and bad reviews of it ,think it may appeal more to female readers ,know my wife keen on reading it at some point ,all the best stu

    1. Stu, I’m surprised to hear about the bad reviews, since I haven’t met any. I agree it may appeal more to female readers. I’ve already lent the book to the wife of my colleague, because she’s a mom with 2 boys and I’m guessing she may really enjoy the book.

  4. I’m going to the launch of this book next week and I can’t wait… I’ve heard so many things about this book and all bets were off when I heard Emma Donoghue got on the Booker shortlist. I cannot wait to read this novel!

    1. Reeder, it’s surprising for myself how fresh the book is. I rarely hardly ever read book so recently published! It’s published here in Australia in August. Wherever you are hope you get to read it soon!

  5. I wish I’d had a long flight to read this book – real life kept making me put this book down :-)

    I found it slow to start, but by the end I was in awe of it. I’m really pleased that you enjoyed it too. I doubt it will win the Booker though. I’d love it to, but my money is on C.

    1. Jackie, oh yes I was thankful to have the book on that flight! The few days before that I felt a bit upset that I needed to put it down all the time.

      I doubt Room will win too, but who knows they might surprise us. C somehow doesn’t appeal to me much, so I don’t think I’ll read it. Can’t wait til they announce the winner!

    1. Jo, thanks! Somehow C doesn’t appeal to me, so I don’t think I’ll read it. Will be interested to hear your thoughts though!

    1. Iris, it’s a very “current” book I think. I wonder if it could stand the test of time and if it’s still an appealing read in decades from now!

  6. Thanks for the linky!

    Glad you enjoyed this book. I was wary of the book being gimmicky as well, but I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t. I know what you mean when you say the book’s not literary enough to win the Booker, but then again, guessing one would say the same about The White Tiger which won the Booker in 2008.

    1. anothercookie, you’re welcome. I haven’t read The White Tiger and I’m not sure if I will. For myself I’m always reminded of Life of Pi every time people talk about book that is not very literary for the Booker!

  7. This book changed my whole perception on having kids. I am a known non-breeder, but I feel the emotional connection with a child can be so strong, so much stronger than any human connection I’ve had, that I’d be missing out on Outside if I didn’t breed. I wept. Emma is genius.

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