Room, By Emma Donoghue

What’s This Book All About?

Based on, or inspired from horrifying cases like that of Josef Fritzl, Room is a story told from the point of view of a boy, Jack who lives with his captive mother in a square room. Written with a great deal of pain, love and imagination this book manages to make a room in the heart of many readers, as is evident from the numerous acclaims it has gained since it release.

The Bigger Picture

I have very little experience of reading books that are written from children’s point of view. The writers of these books have a great challenge because when such stories are not handled right, they can turn out to be extremely childish and irritating. But this book is different because the narrator of our story, Jack is really comprehensible, thereby enabling the author to create a story that captures the voice of a child without it seeming too calculated or over simplified.

Unlike other novels, Room is built on intense constraints: Firstly, Jack’s point of view is extremely limited due to his age (he is a  five year old boy) and secondly, he has only lived within the confines of his 12 foot room with his mother, which in turn affects the entire narration. This means that the reader too is invariably affected by these constraints. Though there is intense drama in the story, it takes some time for the reader to fully adapt to the characters and situation presented by the author. But once the readers accept this limitations in terms of story telling, the story becomes extremely interesting and dramatic.

Room is a brave act for any author, a feat that Donoghue with her talent pulls off with extraordinary finesse. The first half of this novel takes place entirely within a room, where a young women has been kept captive by a man named Old Nick. After being raped repeatedly, she now has a son Jack, through whom the story is being told. Despite being held captive, Jack is happily encoded in a routine that includes exercise, singing and reading, created for him by his mother (whose real name is never revealed and is called Ma).  For him, the entire world is within that single room. Even though he knows that there is an outside world, Jack does not feel the need to leave the Room. Jack’s mother eventually devises an ingenious plan of escape and life outside the room is what forms the second half of this story.

The biggest strength of Room is that it perfectly captures the vulnerability of  a child’s mind and the manner in which they perceive the world. The manner in which children take what they know and use their own unique filters to understand things that they don’t understand is brought out beautifully in this book. Hearing about the world and relationships from the point of view of a five year old is extremely unique while at the same time eye opening and  overwhelming.  In addition, this book also opens your eyes to the freedom, many people take for granted. I realised that my room was also similar in size and I just cannot imagine being confined in there for even a day. This in turn helps us put into perspective the amount of courage and determination, Ma would have needed to raise a child in such a scenario.

Overall, Room is much more than a victim and survivor tale, mainly due to the exceptional writing that helps us to connect with Jack and Ma in a very intimate and personal manner. A story that shows the potential of language and story telling, this book is a true ode to power of motherhood and paternal love.

Final Verdict

Go in with a open mind and this book will surely delight you. An amazing and heart-wrenching story of love and survival, Room provides you with a unique perspective from the point of view of a child, making it a highly recommended book. On the whole, Donoghue goes the distance with this novel, that can can be read through myriad lenses be it psychological, sociological, or political. It presents an utterly different outlook about love,  while at the same time providing a fresh and expansive vision about the world in which we live.

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