Friday, 8 January 2016

A fictional week: Room by Emma Donoghue reviewed

I’ve been meaning to read Room by Emma Donoghue ever since it was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize back in 2010. With the film adaptation being released in cinemas this Spring I’ve finally got round to picking up a copy thanks to my ever reliable local library.

First off, this is a book told from the perspective of Jack, a 5 year old boy, which is an obstacle to overcome and will likely put off a heap of readers. The thing is that once you understand that Jack has only ever lived with his mum within ‘Room’ and that he has learnt that anything outside of Room is fake, just like TV, he gets a whole lot more interesting.

Jack was born in Room, the pair are entirely confined to a garden shed type structure following his mum’s abduction as a 19 year old girl.  This is harrowing stuff made all the more real when seen through Jack’s eyes. I can see why Emma Donoghue chose this narrative device and it does work for the most part.

The plot focuses initially on Jack and his Mum’s plans, and final attempt, to escape from Room and from their captor Old Nick. The second half of the book concerns their rehabilitation into life in TV (as Jack refers to live outside Room) and the media storm that follows their story.

For me the book is at its best in the early chapters with Mum raising Jack and dealing with everyday life in the most incredible circumstances.

The actual escape is tense but resolves almost too easily presumably to move the story on to the rehabilitation part which I found less interesting. There is something Alice in Wonderland like about Jack engaging with the real world and his new family but I would have settled for a 75/25 split in terms of Room vs the rabbit hole of escape.

The other theme that kept coming to my mind was Peter Pan both in terms of the idea of home and Neverland and with Jack himself who in some ways is the child who you imagine could never fully grow up and forget the illusion of the World he held onto so tightly in Room.

A good read and will be interesting to see how this is adapted for the big screen. Here's a taster....

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