Author: Emma Donoghue
Publish Date: September 13th 2010
Genres: Adult, Fiction
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 . . .
Told in the inventive, funny, and poignant voice of Jack, Room is a celebration of resilience-and a powerful story of a mother and son whose love lets them survive the impossible.
Room was the final book that I read and analyzed for a high school literature class, so it was a little bittersweet. The upside is that graduation is right around the corner, so I guess I can’t complain!
Before I started reading, I was a little wary of a five-year-old narrator and how he would provide an accurate and comprehensive commentary on such a difficult situation. The writing was extremely challenging to adjust to initially because it reflected the disjointed, grammatically incorrect speech of a small child. Jack’s use of objects’ names as capitalized pronouns (ie. I jumped on Bed while Ma watered Plant) served to further add to the confusion. The biggest hurdle was getting acclimated to Jack’s recounting of the tale, but the task became significantly easier as the novel progressed.
That being said, Donoghue’s writing style was phenomenal, particularly through the insight she provided regarding what a child observes and deems important versus what our minds, as adults, naturally single out as noteworthy. She also indirectly relayed a surprising amount of information regarding Ma’s emotional and mental state while maintaining Jack’s voice for the entirety of the book, truly honing in on the perceptiveness and attentiveness of children. This was certainly a challenging topic to both read and, I would imagine, write about, and Donoghue did so as gracefully and seamlessly as possible without tiptoeing around any aspects of Ma and Jack’s situation.
Despite its intricate and highly realistic (almost frightening) plot, the pacing was extremely inconsistent and had a tendency to lag considerably, particularly during the final 150 pages of the book. The climax occurred very early in the book, and my attention quickly dwindled after that as the pacing became increasingly and notably slower. There were also a significant number of small subplots that were briefly introduced and then never addressed again. These simply served to divert attention from Ma and Jack’s story, as well as creating quite a few unresolved questions.
The characters were also disappointingly underdeveloped. One of the primary issues may have been the introduction of a large number of characters, albeit minor, in a very short period of time, preventing Donoghue from establishing them as multi-faceted and deserving or non-deserving of reader sympathy. These characters were simply presented as one large blur, making it challenging to distinguish one from the next. While this may have been intentionally considering Jack’s narration style and the emotions a small child would experience when his/her entire world is turned upside down, it was extremely frustrating as a reader because there were few definitive characteristics and personality quirks that could be associated with each individual.
One of the primary characters I wished would have been elaborated upon was Old Nick, Ma’s kidnapper and Jack’s father. He appears briefly on several occasions at the beginning of the novel, but the only description Jack provides is what he is able to see and hear from his hiding spot in Ma’s dresser. None of Old Nick’s motives are ever revealed, including those that prompted him to carry out the initial kidnapping. Furthermore, the ending leaves some uncertainty about Old Nick’s past and future, potentially because Ma was attempting to shield Jack by refusing to divulge information. Consequently, it was difficult to visualize the unfolding events from Old Nick’s perspective or to experience the range of emotions he must have underwent.
I found it particularly difficult to connect with Ma, most likely because she remained a very static character for the duration of the novel. Very little was revealed about her past prior to her kidnapping and imprisonment above and beyond her relationships with her family members. Many of her actions and decisions were poorly explained or unexplained in their entirety, and it was often difficult to gauge her opinions and initial reactions to unfolding events.
While I considerably enjoyed the premise of Room as well as Donoghue’s writing, I wasn’t overly fond of its pacing or characterization. While I grew steadily less enthralled with the novel as it progressed, it was a quick and easy read. Although Room is entirely fictional, it is incredibly eyeopening and certainly not for the faint of heart.
|Plot & Premise||4 Cauldrons|
|Writing Style||5 Cauldrons|