Room – Emma Donoghue

Posted 17 July, 2014 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 22 Comments


Room - Emma DonoghueTitle: Room
Author: Emma Donoghue
Published: 2010 Pages: 336
Genre: Fiction
Rating: Strong start, medicore middle, rewarding ending

Room In Short: Five year old Jack (narrator) and his mother live in Room, a 11×11 home. Except it’s not really a home, it’s a prison of sorts and they are captives.

Why I Read It: Blogger praise when the book first came out. A few years ago I picked up the hardcover on sale but didn’t pick it up until last week.

Thoughts in General: First things first – Room held my heart and my chest in a vice and didn’t let go until about halfway through the book. It was incredibly intense and I couldn’t put the book down. More on this in a bit–wanted to get that out there before I noted a few of the less than positive thoughts.

Jack. Sweet five year old Jack. I get why Jack is the narrator and it put a brilliant spin on Donoghue’s storytelling, but it did make the actual reading of Room difficult on a few levels. Jack is very believable at five years old (or as a child, anyway). I was able to hear Elle (three years old) through his voice and often felt a pang from how childish his thoughts and connections were. His innocence and naivete were heartbreaking given his circumstances in the book, and it made me ache not only for him but also for his mother, Ma.

All that said, it was very difficult for me to get into the book with Jack as the narrator. It was hard trying to wrap my brain around what Jack was conveying, but once I got the hang of it, I didn’t mind as much. Of course, Jack’s ability to eavesdrop and recall adult conversations with great accuracy helped the reading. I have heard that the audio for Room is tough because of the childish narrator–though I haven’t experienced the audiobook firsthand.

Second bummer of Room for me was that the climax came in the middle of the book and the second half of the book was one long recovery. Even though my interest was held throughout the story, I felt that the first half of Room was much stronger than the second half of the book. Though I did find the ending very pleasing and I love the strength that Jack was able to provide to his mother who suffered more than Jack could possibly understand.

Jack as narrator and a less than gripping second half are two minor quips, though. While I didn’t love Room as other bloggers have, I did find it very engaging. Again, I physically felt the emotion and crises from the book and it was at times a tough read. People have asked about reading this one with small children, and it was something that I worried about as well. I don’t know–I think I was able to separate myself from the book. The only time that it was perhaps a really difficult read was when I let myself hear Elle in Jack’s voice. That and the references to Dora the Explorer. Kidding. But ultimately, while it was an emotional read, Room did not feel too close to home for me. I don’t think you should let that stop you from reading it.

Bottom Line: While I’m not all OMG READ IT IT’S AMAZING, I did really enjoy the experience of reading Room and I would recommend it to others. This would make a great book club book as there’s a lot to discuss. I would be really curious in a movie and kept picturing Kate Winslet as Ma. And if you do pick up the book and find yourself having a tough time getting into the story, give it 50 pages or so. You’ll soon be at a point where the book is unputdownable.

As a side note, I was looking up the pages and publication date on wikipedia and noticed that Room was inspired by a true story. The Fritzl Case is even more horrifying than this one, though. The stuff of nightmares.

Have you read Room? What did you think?


22 Responses to “Room – Emma Donoghue”

  1. I really liked Room when I read it, and couldn’t put it down etc, but as it stands now, it’s probably one of my least favourite Emma Donoghue books. Which isn’t to say that it’s bad, just that she’s awesome. I will always be grateful to it for introducing me to her work though, and I will probably read it again someday cause all-in-one-day reads are not the best (well, they are. But also not)

  2. One reason I think I loved it so much was that I listened to it, and the narrator did a voice like a five year old, and it was pretty amazing in that format.

  3. I had reservations about listening to a book with a 5 year old narrator and it took me a little while to adjust to the voice, but the audio version was outstanding! Had no idea it was inspired by a true story.

  4. I haven’t read this one yet but it has been on my TBR list since it came out. I’m definitely thinking about picking it up in the near future. A teacher I great admire is considering teaching it in one of her elective classes which definitely intrigues me and rekindles my desire to read the book!

  5. Ti

    I am not a liker of this one. In fact, it sort of annoyed me for many reasons. One, I never bought Jack’s voice. I get that telling it from a child’s POV is effective but his language and his phrasing was strange to me. Yes, part of that could be attributed to his limited access to what he knew of the outside, but I don’t know, it didn’t ring as authentic to me.

    Also, the part where the media gets involved and how the mom acts towards the kid… nah… didn’t like her at ALL. I just don’t think someone would act like that given what they have been through.

  6. I bought Room at my best friend’s insistence but haven’t picked it up yet. The child narrator kind of frightens me.

  7. I thought the book would’ve been more emotional for me if told by the mother…mostly because as far as Jack knew, this was everyone’s normal. He wasn’t feeling pain or fear and it helped me read it. I’ve read memoirs of this type of situation from an older, knowledgeable victims POV and they were much harder to read.

    Btw, I love your rating system – divvying up parts of the book for rating.

  8. I have avoided it like I avoid most emotional stuff regarding small children, but you make it seem like I should give it a chance!

  9. I really liked this one, but my favorite was the second half–just the opposite of you. :-) I had really been looking forward to how the author would approach the subject of the mother and child re-entering society.

  10. I’ve had this book in hard cover for a long time, and now have it on CD, but have not been able to bring myself to read it. Thank you for your thoughts.

  11. I was absolutely terrified to pick this one up at all–and I did bail on the audiobook because the narrator’s voice was so believably childlike. I agree that the first half was better-written, but I don’t think I could’ve read it if it was that level of intensity all the way through. I would’ve buckled!

  12. Linda

    When I read this book, I started out and was going great guns in the first half and then boom, it just totally lost me! I was growing impatient and irritated at it. So I read the ending and called it DONE!

    Linda in VA

  13. I’m not sure on this one. I’ve heard all the praise but with a 4 year old little boy I’m pretty sure this would be gut wrenching and I’m such a chicken when it comes to gut wrenching. I’m glad you enjoyed this. I may have to pick it up in a few years when I don’t have quite the same connection to the age.

  14. I really loved this when I read it, if I can say I loved a story like it – it felt so raw and I actually really liked having it told from Jack’s perspective. I do agree about the climax coming early, but like you I appreciated the ending. I wouldn’t read it again but I would recommend it to others, so about the same. :)

  15. I thought the audio version was very powerful. I listened to Frog Music on audio recently, and thought that was also excellent!

  16. I was so crazy disturbed when I found out about the case that inspired this. There are some seriously messed up people out there. The reason I thought the book was pretty fantastic was because the story was told from such a naive and innocent point of view that it actually worked.

  17. Yep, I was one of those readers who loved it. Just glanced at my review and see that I gave it a perfect 5/5. I had forgotten just how much I loved it. Now I want to read The Bear (by Claire Cameron), which is also narrated by a young child.