Though I had heard a lot about Emma Donoghue’s Room, I was wary of picking it up since I thought that the writer was simply cashing in on certain screaming headlines that hit the world’s conscience in the year 2008.
However, while searching for an Orange nominated book, this July, I chanced upon it and decided to give it a try. Divided into 4 parts, the book narrates the life of a young boy Jack and his mother. Having been born and brought up in a small 11-by-11 room, Jack has no idea that there is a world outside the room. When the novel opens, Jack has just turned five. The two people he is in contact with are his mother with whom he shares a special bond and a man he calls Old Nick who comes in the night when Jack is packed off to the wardrobe. Presumably Old Nick disappears into TV in the morning. Then one fine day, his mother, who is at the end of her tether, tells him about the reality of the world and how she has been a captive all these years. Mother and son devise a plan to escape but adjustment in the world outside is so complicated that at times Jack wishes to be back again in the room.
The greatest strength of the book is the narrative voice. The five-year old’s voice sounds authentic as he describes his life in the cocoon, which to him is cosy and comfortable, as well as outside with its bewildering array of things and modes he knows nothing about and where language too can prove to be as much a barrier as anything, giving rise to gentle humour. Here Jack’s step-grandfather tells him about his brother who had burnt his arm when young:
“Can I see the skin instead?”
“What skin?” asks Grandma.
“Oh, he lives in Mexico. He’s your, I guess, your great-uncle.”
Steppa throws all the water into the sink so it makes a big cloud of wet air.
“Why is he great?”
The book is good but thankfully not haunting otherwise one will have nightmares for days altogether.
First Line: Today I am five.
Author: Emma Donoghue
Publication Details: London: Picador, 2010
First Published: 2010
Other Books read of the Same Author: None
The book is easily available. I borrowed it from the college library ( 823.09 D 716 R)
Read as part of the Orange July Event
Orange Connection: Longlisted in 2011.
Submitted for the following challenges: A-Z (Titles), European Reading, Find the Cover, New Authors.