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.