Out of all the books on the Man Booker long list this year ‘Room’ by Emma Donoghue was the one that instantly intrigued me. There has already been a lot of ‘buzz’ (rather than hype) around this book here there and everywhere so it was on my radar but I hadn’t expected to see it on that list. So when it arrived the day after the announcement I knew I had to read it instantly, especially as I knew my reading plans were going to be going awry over the next few forthcoming months, more on that tomorrow. So ‘Room’ by Emma Donoghue, what did I think?
‘Room’ opens with the fifth birthday of Jack. Slowly but surely as he describes his day we realise we are in the real world but not a real world we would know. For Jack’s world is Room the place in which he was born and has lived for his five year life with his mother and no one else but ‘Old Nick’ who comes by at night and brings them food, creaks Bed and leaves ‘Sundaytreat’ once a week. As we read on we realise Jack’s mother was kidnapped and has been hidden away for years and that ‘Old Nick’, who has a really dark and menacing presence in the book, is their captor – though of course Jack doesn’t.
It seems that Jack’s birthday sees the start of a turning point though in all their lives as his ‘Ma’ decides that he needs to know there is more than Room, there is outside. But how would it feel to realise that there is a huge world outside the one you have always thought is simply it, which hurts Jack’s head when he even tries to think about it? Even bigger, how would they cope if they did actually get outside?
You might think ‘ooh he’s giving it all away’ but honestly I am not, there is so much more to this book. In fact I was worried myself that having seen so much written about ‘Room’ already, which give hints to the plot, before I even started it something would be spoiled for me. I couldn’t have been more wrong because even the best reviews I have seen so far don’t and couldn’t give you a sense of the journey that you go on with the book. As clichéd as I am aware that sounds it’s true.
Emma Donoghue does something incredibly special with ‘Room’. By putting us in the mind of 5 year old Jack she makes us see things from both the innocence of the child narrating and the cynical knowledge the reader has as an adult and rather than play it for a schmaltzy tale of woe, or a calculated tear fest, though the book is emotional in parts. It’s also very funny in parts too and that’s all down to the child eye observance of Jack and his voice. Child narrators can sometimes really grate on me, let alone books that are written in a slightly childish dialect, yet I could have listened to Jack describing his life for pages and pages more. It adds a new dimension to the whole book.
“Spider’s real. I’ve seen her two times. I look for her now but there’s only a web between Table’s legs and her flat. Table balances good, that’s pretty tricky, when I go on one leg I can do it forages but then I always fall over. I don’t tell Ma about Spider. She brushes webs away, she says they’re dirty but they look like extra-thin silver to me. Ma likes the animals that run around eating each other on the wildlife planet, but not real ones. When Iwas four I was watching ants walking up Stove and she ran and splatted them all so they wouldn’t eat our food. One minute they were alive and the next minute they were dirt. I cried so my eyes nearly melted off. “
Donoghue’s writing is wonderful. I think my favourite line in the whole book was this… “We’re like people in a book, and he won’t let anybody else read it.” In a single line Ma sums everything up and as a reader it really hit me, there’s a lot of emotion and impact in just that one line so imagine what Donoghue can do with a book full of them. I could go on and on about this book but I will stop and simply say ‘read it’. I think this could very quickly become one of my favourite books of the year and I hope regardless of Man Booker winning or not it becomes a huge seller as it’s a book that really deserves a wide audience, it’s the sort of book I think anyone could get something out of.
A book that will: quite possibly leave you a little breathless and remind you what reading is all about and may have you running out to buy it for everyone you know. 10/10
To me this is what a book prize should be about, finding a book with a new voice, something that’s funny, emotional and captivating (I read this in two sittings) and that’s what the best books are isn’t it? Have you read ‘Room’? Had you noticed the ‘buzz’ before the Man Booker Longlist was announced? Has anyone read anything else by Emma Donoghue as I noticed in the front pages that she has another nine books, any one recommend any?