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?