Book Review / Room by Emma Donoghue

Room by Emma Donoghue is one of my absolute favourite books, and with the film adaptation currently in the cinema and being nominated for numerous awards, I thought it’d be best to review the original text for The Indiependent.

Title: Room

Author: Emma Donoghue

Outline: Room is the heartbreaking story of 5-year-old Jack and his Ma who live in ‘Room’ aka a shed in the back of their captor’s garden. The premise of the novel is of their escape and their eventual coping within the real world, outside of Room’s four walls. It’s shocking, it tugs on the heartstrings and it really makes you cry. A lot. I cried throughout the entirety of Donoghue’s novel, and as its told from the perspective of five-year-old Jack who believes his skylight gives him a glimpse into space, that the ‘real world’ he sees on television is made up and who sleeps in Wardrobe at night while his mother is raped by their captor, it is difficult to stop reading. Exploring the nature of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, as well as simply just growing up and adjusting to new surroundings, Room is a novel that, despite dealing with such harrowing subject matter, really has family and love at its core.

Highlights: It’s really difficult to pick a highlight from Room, as the book as a whole is wonderfully written. However, one thing that I love about the novel is the way in which Donoghue, writing in Jack’s voice, capitalises things within their small space. Jack refers to Bed, Wardrobe and Skylight as if they are real, living things, which really makes your heart break even more so when you realise that this is his understanding of his world – the tiny shed at the bottom of a garden, unaware that there’s a whole world on the outside of it. Also, Jack’s escape from Room is seriously captivating: reading something full of intense action but described by a five-year-old narrator left me unable to put the book down until I knew the outcome. Emma Donoghue knows how to capture a reader perfectly.

Why I Read It: I first read Room back in Year 12 when it appeared on my AS English Literature reading list, subsequently writing a comparative essay of both this and The Collector by John Fowles. I’ll admit, I bought the book and read it quite late (the night before term started, in fact) but I read the entire thing from cover to cover in a single sitting. It’s always a great feeling when you fall in love and connect with a book you study, as it just makes the whole process of learning and revising so much easier and way more fun — and we all know this isn’t always the case!

Rating: 9/10. Room is a wonderful novel, and dealing with the harrowing subject matter of abduction, rape and its effects through the eyes of an innocent young boy is something I believe is very effective. Learning that Emma Donoghue was inspired to write the story of Jack and his Ma after hearing about the Fritzl case is even more interesting, but Donoghue builds her novel on a strong foundation of love and family ties that keeps you hooked and makes you feel as though you’re standing side by side with young Jack throughout everything he encounters.

Room is currently in cinemas across the UK, starring Jacob Tremblay and Brie Larson. The trailer is right here (and trust me, the film is really wonderful):

[Originally posted as part of a ’50 Books’ feature on The Indiependent]

4 Replies to “Book Review / Room by Emma Donoghue”

  1. Wonderful post. You are so right, I read the book in 2010, it was heartbreaking, mainly for the innocence and naivety of a five year old who has never experienced anything outside the four walls of Room. That enough is heartbreaking until you realise that Ma is so young herself and the way she has coped with having a child in there and explaining their world to him as best she could to protect him is, like you said, harrowing. Really tugs at the heartstrings. I watched the movie last week and it does it so much justice. Really remarkable piece of work. Have you seen it?

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      1. Stop. I was the exact same, aren’t they both so damn talented? That Jacob… has more talent in his big toe than I could ever dream of. And I loved how they didn’t focus much on the captor in the movie just how they didn’t in the book because Jack doesn’t give him much time. Ugh, it’s sublime.

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