I’ve been wanting to read Room for quite some time but was waiting to be in the right state of mind to deal with the intense topics dealt with in this novel.
In this book, Emma Donoghue tells the story of Jack, whose life has always been spent in Room, around his friends Wardrobe, Bed, and Meltedy Spoon. Jack lives with Ma, who is sometimes visited by Old Nick while Jack sleeps in Wardrobe. The story starts on Jack’s fifth birthday, the year that is going to mark his discovery of Outside and his and Ma’s escape from captivity.
The most interesting aspect of this novel is that the story is told from five-year old Jack’s point of view. The language used is a bit strange and quirky, as you would expect from the mind of a little boy in his circumstances. It takes a few pages to get used to but once you’re immersed in Jack’s story, you don’t even notice it.
The fact that it is Jack telling the story prevents it from becoming a sensational tale full of gritty and graphic details. Room was originally inspired by a true story of kidnapping that took place in Austria but Donoghue refused to make her novel a news story. Instead, it is an insight into a boy’s restrictive view of the world and the immense protective love of a mother for her son.
What I found particularly interesting in this story is that, the fact that it is narrated by Jack makes it seem as if Outside is scarier than Room. Because Ma protected him from Old Nick, he’s never suffered harm in Room and it is instead a shielded and comfortable environment for him. However, Outside is full of strangers with not always good intentions. He gets bitten by a dog as soon as he escapes, journalists are after him, and Ma is not the same anymore. Jack has to adapt to a new perspective, a world where being a five-year old breastfeeding boy with long hair is not acceptable. All those changes are disorienting for a little boy.
I really appreciated the fact that Donoghue spent a lot of time exploring rehabilitation rather than focusing on the aggressor or the sordid details of the abuse. Because of this, it’s not as heavy a read as I anticipated and there is a strong message of hope.
I highly recommend this novel to anyone with an interest in contemporary literary fiction.
I’m looking forward to watching the movie now. Jacob Tremblay is adorable.
Rating: 4.5 stars