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 a criminal’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 it is 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 actions 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.
Words by Kirstie Sutherland