Author: Emma Donoghue
Check this book out on Goodreads.
To five-year-old-Jack, Room is the world.
It’s where he was born. It’s where he and Ma eat and sleep and play and learn. There are endless wonders that let loose Jack’s imagination-the snake under Bed that he constructs out of eggshells; the coziness of Wardrobe beneath Ma’s clothes, where she tucks him in safely at night, in case Old Nick comes.
Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it’s the prison where she’s been held since she was nineteen-for seven long years. Through her fierce love for her son, she has created a life for him in that eleven-by-eleven-foot space. But Jack’s curiosity is building alongside her own desperation, and she knows that Room cannot contain either indefinitely . . . (Source: Goodreads)
Room is Jack’s world, all 11X11 feet of it. For Ma though it’s the prison she’s been locked in for 7 years, surviving only out of determination to protect and care for Jack. Together the pair take care of each other, until Ma can no longer take it and she formulates a plan of escape. Even if they do escape though, how can Jack survive in the world unknown beyond the four soundproofed walls he’s been living in since his very first moments?
I adored this book, I admit it took me a while to get into it, but I still adored it. I think this was really helped by the fact that I had already seen the movie, and thus my reading of it was being sort of filtered through my knowledge of the film and the absolutely amazing performances in the film by Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay. The book adds a lot of layers that the film didn’t have, I don’t know that it made it a better or worse story, it just made some new dimensions. I really enjoyed the book and thought it was well written, even if I struggled quite a lot with the writing style initially.
Jack and Ma’s story is really emotionally devastating, it took quite a toll on me reading it, even though I knew what was coming. I think Donoghue really captured the confusion of coming to terms with a crisis, and also coming to terms with the vastness of the world in general. I think Jack was a perfect vehicle for the confusion and terror of the story. The whole book is narrated by Jack, who has very unusual speaking patterns, being lead to believe that the world is only as big as Room, and everything else is just TV, he is unable to understand concepts like personal pronouns, and the differences between reality and fantasy. His strange manner of speech is very difficult to adjust to, which meant it took me a little while to really get into the book. I think the confusing language really adds to the story though, it makes the confusion of everything more apparent, and you sort of get into the head of someone born and raised in captivity a little more.
I thought Jack in particular was a really fantastically developed character. Identifying with him is incredibly easy. Ma on the other hand is a little more difficult to even like, but you can empathize with her. She’s had to struggle with losing the prime year of her life to her captor, and being stuck with her son who she loves (of course) but has never had an space from. I thought the cast of characters in general was really quite great. Ma’s family especially are all really well developed and you get to know them quite easily. They’re really your bridges into the world beyond Room, and they help to bring Jack into that world, which was really captured by Donoghue’s writing.
There are some issues, like the manner of speech Jack has. Other problems I had were more related to pacing. Everything moved very quickly, without any sense of the building of time. Jack and Ma are living alone in an apartment shockingly quickly after their escape which read as unrealistic to me. I think some of the emotions I read into the book really came from the movie adaptation, but I think without the movie it might have been more of a struggle for me.
Overall, I really liked this book and would highly recommend it. I’d also recommend the film adaptation – the screenplay was written by Donoghue as well – as it has some different emotional beats to it that are interesting, and has some amazing acting.