Room by Emma Donoghue

Room is unlike anything I’ve read before. It is narrated by five-year old Jack who has lived his entire life inside a single room. He knows nothing of the world ‘Outside’ and believes everything that he sees on TV to be pretend – only himself, his mother and the contents of the room are ‘real’. He personifies the furniture inside the room and thinks of cartoon characters as his friends. It is a very unique perspective.

He has an incredibly strong relationship with his mother who shares his confinement in Room. It becomes clear through Jack’s narration that their imprisonment in Room is enforced by a man Jack knows as Old Nick. Jack’s Ma was abducted when she was 19 and, since Jack’s birth, she has devoted her time to Jack; educating and entertaining him but, until his fifth birthday, never revealing the reality of the world outside the four walls. Jack’s naivety and innocent perspective on Old Nick and Room is chilling and perhaps more harrowing than if it were narrated by Ma herself.

However the horror is balanced with humour and touching reminders of Jack and Ma’s love for one another.Jack trusts Ma so completely and his world is based entirely on the version of it that she tells him. The theme of child development is strong in the novel and it definitely gives some food for thought. When Jack and Ma finally escape Jack is exposed to hundreds of new things that would seem completely mundane to a normal five year-old. I think what is especially interesting is Jack’s wish to return to Room, the place that he calls home, and his attachment to the things inside the Room, even once he is allowed to have new things.

The novel is original and inventive. It is sensitively written and avoids being voyeuristic which would have been an easy pitfall for a novel with such subject matter. However I was not blown away by it – it’s a well told story, a solid 7 out of 10 but for me it lacked that spark that makes a really great novel.


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