Book Review: Room – Emma O’Donoghue

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I bought this book a few weeks ago not realising it was on the BBC list. I’ve been preoccupied recently with college and assignments and haven’t had time to check in with fellow bloggers.  Catherine spotted that I’d mentioned Room on Facebook and let me know that it was on the list so a big thanks for that.  At last I’ve a review that I can contribute.

Room is one of the few books I’ve bought this year that I’ve actually opened and read from beginning to end. It wasn’t that I particularly enjoyed it….abduction and entrapment is not the most entertaining of subjects to dwell on….but it held my interest sufficiently long enough for me to finish reading it, which is more than can be said for any other books I’ve started recently.

The story is told from the point of view of  five year old Jack who lives in ‘Room’ with Ma who, at nineteen, was abducted by ‘Old Nick’ and imprisoned in a shed in his garden.

Room Emma Donoghue

Through the innocence of a child’s eyes the awful situation is revealed.  Ma and Jack fill their day with reading, exercising (running around Room), making things out of food wrappings, and watching tv.  Somethings on tv, like vegetables, are real, but other things like icecream are not.  People are on other planets in tv.  So are stores. Sometimes Jack and Ma stand up on Table and see who can scream the loudest at Skylight.  They play Orchestra and see what noises they can make by banging and hitting things.

At night Jack goes to sleep in Wardrobe.  The sound of bleeps signal Old Nick’s arrival and Jack counts the creaks of Ma’s bed before going to sleep (turning off).

The fact that Room is told from Jack’s perspective makes the experiences in the story more disturbing.  This is a situation that no child should find themselves in and there is a great sense of Jack reaching an age when he is beginning to ask questions, although he is still very innocent.  Ma tries to protect him as best she can and her efforts are both pitiful and admirable….which leads me to the part of the book I just didn’t find very credible – her escape plan!

Spoiler Alert!!

If you haven’t read Room and are planning to, then skip the next paragraph. You’ve been warned!

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Would Ma, who had done so much to protect her child from ever having anything to do with ‘Old Nick’ really be so desperate as to hatch such a dangerous escape plan? Thoughts ran through my mind of Jack being discovered and being murdered by Old Nick, or not being able to free himself from the rolled up carpet and being buried alive.  After seven years living in captivity had Ma’s mind eventually flipped?

Who can tell what Ma would have been driven to, but this plot just didn’t sit right with me.

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All in all, this was a disturbing read, probably because abduction featured so much in the news over the last few years with the cases involving Elizabeth Fritzl, Natascha Kampusch, and, more recently, Jaycee Lee Dugard. But it was told exceptionally well and very cleverly.  No surprise then that it won the Hughes and Hughes Irish Novel of the Year a couple of weeks ago.  I look forward to reading more from Emma O’Donoghue in the future.

Emma O’Donoghue reads from Room

6 thoughts on “Book Review: Room – Emma O’Donoghue

  1. Great review and I love the videoclips -what a good idea to add them! I should backtrack to my review and post them! You succinctly summarised the plot and like me found the escape incredible – but I doubt that anything she’d dream up as an escape plan would be credible. I loved the book as it was a rollercoaster to the end, harrowing and you’d be reading parts with hands over eyes, metaphorically speaking… it was grim stuff and what it brought home to me was that’s what the Fritzl children had to endure, for even if some were brought up by Elizabeth’s parents. That there are such sick people about makes you wonder, and that such monsters exist to do such things to their victims is hard to deal with. Thanks for comment over on mine.
    All the best, Catherine.

  2. Susan, I agree with you abduction and entrapment is not the most entertaining of subjects but I think the author has dealt with the subject very sensitively plus I feel I understand a little more of what abduction must really be like, having read this book

    Including the two videos was good, I hadn’t seen either of them. It was interesting to see Emma Donoghue reading from this book.

    Reading ‘Room’ has made me want to read more of Emma Donoghue’s writing.

    Good luck with all the college work Susan!

  3. I agree Susan, the prospect of Jack being buried alive in the rug occurred to me as well but I put it out of my mind very quickly and read on to make sure he survived!
    Great review

  4. My review at the start probably came across a bit harsh. That wasn’t intended.

    Catherine, like you, the book made me think a lot bout what those poor women (and their children, in the case of Elizabeth Fritzl) must have gone through. I suppose that in a way is testimony to how well the story was told.

    Marian, it’s great to pick up a book and enjoy it that much. Maybe I’m too wrapped up in exams and stuff at the moment but it’s a while since I’ve really enjoyed a good book. I’ve a few lined up here for over the Christmas when I intend taking a complete break from everything.

    Lily, I love if I can hear an author reading even part of their work. It gives a good grasp of the way they intended it to be read. The best reading this year for me was definitely Joseph O’Connor in Listowel when he read from Ghostlight. Fantastic! :) Thanks for the kind wishes. Methinks I’ll be needing the luck this semester.

    Lorna, I have to say I turned the pages fairly quickly when the escape bit was happening. Good choice of a book and I’m glad I managed to catch up with everyone for this one. I must check the list and see what’s coming up over the Christmas.

  5. Great review Susan. I love the videos.
    I also wish I’d have thought about doing the spoiler….I might go back and change mine. If that poor child had done everything he said in two weeks after coming out ‘Room’ then he would have been totally overwhelmed.

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