Room – Emma Donoghue

“Jack is five. He lives with his Ma. They live in a single, locked room. They don’t have the key. Jack and Ma are prisoners.”

Welcome to Room, the only place narrator Jack knows. He’s only five and has spent all of his years locked up in a tiny, one-bedroom dwelling with his mother, who was kidnapped as a teen, held and raped by her captor who Jack only knows as Old Nick. They have to rely on ‘Nick’ for food, water, electricity and supplies – they’re being kept in a hidden, inescapable dwelling at the bottom of Nick’s garden.

Jack relates his day-to-day activities with endearing simplicity, listing the objects that make up his life – Rug, Lamp, Bed – and personifying them. He is a startlingly happy and easily pleased child, but when his mother hatches an escape plan that succeeds, he’s unleashed in a world he doesn’t know. For the little boy whose whole world was four walls, everything is confusing and new, and he narrates his new surroundings and discoveries in a naive and baffled manner.

Room, with its endearing and heart-wrenching simplicity, can be a little frustrating at times, and the viewpoint was a struggle to start with, but I found this a truly lovely, if melancholy, read. Even though it was somewhat odd reading this book on holiday (such a novel I feel deserves pathetic fallacy, and a sunny beach was not the place for it), I was immersed within minutes. There were a couple of points where I felt the characterisation slipped (how did he recognise his Uncle Paul’s Blackberry?) but overall, this book is definitely worth a read. It would be interesting to see a sequel, with Jack’s narration reflecting his gained experience and age, as the book seemed a little unfinished to me. Whether it lives up to the hype for others all hangs in the viewpoint.

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