I didn’t expect this to be a cheery read and it wasn’t. But it wasn’t bleak either. The story is told through the eyes of Jack, beginning on his fifth birthday. Jack’s mother was abducted by ‘Old Nick’ and held captive in ‘Room’. Jack sleeps in ‘Wardrobe’, plays on ‘Rug’, eats at ‘Table’ and his mother tells him that there is nothing outside of Room, only ‘Outer Space’, everything he sees on the small amount of television she lets him watch is fictional. Jack is safe, Jack is happy, Jack is a prisoner.
Telling such a heart wrenching tale through the eyes and in the words of a child, is inspired. Simply inspired. It allowed Emma Donoghue to explore a very uncomfortable and horrifying scenario without having to go into the gory details. We, as the adult viewer of Jack’s words and experiences, can read between the lines, fill in the gaps, understand the truth behind the creative explanations given to him by a mother doing her best to raise her child despite such awful circumstances. I think it’s rare for the reader in a first person story to know more than the main character, but that is exactly what goes on here. We never hear or see anyone else’s perspectives on the situation (other than through Jack’s eyes of course), but we can see the reality that Jack is unable to grasp.
As a character, Jack is entirely believable, Ms Donoghue does a fantastic job of staying true to the language and thought processes of a five-year old child, never once did it waver, not once did I feel I was reading the words of a woman.
Perhaps because I’m a mum too, I felt intensely protective of Jack’s Ma as we see her doing her best to keep him occupied and safe and to answer his increasing curiosity about his world. I was in awe of the range of activities she had concocted to fill the time in their tiny Room.
I suppose it could have been an uplifting book in the end, but actually I didn’t find that. It wasn’t anything extreme throughout, it simply was what it was. Which is, in my experience, how the world is through children’s eyes. They don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the past, or the future, they live in the now and they deal with what they are presented with today, at this moment. And that’s what this story left me feeling, a simple act of a tale told. Yet it settled into my brain and like all good stories, will live there and prod me every now and then.
I would recommend Room to anyone, it’s a good read and an interesting concept and style. The story is simple and effective, handling a horrific subject without making the reader feel like a voyeur making entertainment out of heartache. I will definitely be seeking out more of Emma Donoghue’s work.