Monday, November 1, 2010

ROOM by Emma Donoghue

From book flap:

To five-year-old Jack, Room is the world.  It's where he was born, it's where he and his Ma eat and sleep and play and learn.  There are endless wonders that let loose Jack's imagination - the snake under Bed that he constructs out of eggshells, the imaginary world projected through TV, the coziness of Wardrobe below Ma's clothes, where she tucks him in safely at night in case Old Nick comes.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma it's the prison where she has been held since she was nineteen - for seven years.  Through her fierce love for her son, she has created a life for him in that eleven-by-eleven-foot space.  But Jack's curiosity is building alongside her own desperation - and she knows that Room cannot contain either much longer.

My thoughts:

Emma Donoghue has received so much praise for her book, ROOM, and I have to be honest and admit that I'm not really getting what all the fuss is about.  I may be one of the few people to feel this way, but so it goes.  Truthfully, I think the majority of my disappointment lies with the fact that the entire book is told from Jack's perspective and being that he is only 5 years old, well, that perspective is extremely limited in scope and understanding.  How can Jack explain to us how his Ma was kidnapped and held captive for seven years, when he can barely grasp the idea that Outside exists for real and not just in TV.  Jack can only share with us what he knows to be true, which is his life inside of Room - the daily routines of eating, Phys Ed, reading, Bed,etc.  I honestly wanted to give up with this book - I found Jack's voice to be tiresome and repetitive - but for some reason I stuck with it hoping that eventually it would get better. I thought that perhaps once they escape to Outside we would finally get to know more about Ma and perhaps see them reintegrate themselves into the world - of course, I didn't get what I wanted.  Don't get me wrong, Donoghue writes about their escape and where they wind up afterward, but for some reason I felt it lacked a depth and realness that would have provided us with a much more powerfully emotional read.  I just believe that having Jack, instead of Ma, be the narrator deprived the book from truly reaching its point; which was to capture the essence of a horrifying and heartbreaking experience.  I feel as if we didn't really get to know these characters well enough, specifically Ma, whom I feel would have provided the best voice for describing and sharing their ordeal within Room and Outside.  Instead of pushing the story along further and truly examining the psychological effects of everything that occurred before Room, within Room and after Room, we merely get a quick overview of the events fleshed out a bit.  I found the whole story to be rather underwhelming and unrealistic at times, repetitive with information and not at all as emotional as I had expected.  Overall, not one of my favorite reads.  I wouldn't recommend this book. Of course, at the same time, I wouldn't mind reading your thoughts on it - perhaps you can show me what I missed. 

Happy reading!!


Natalie~Coffee and a Book Chick said...

Oh, no! :( I've heard so many fantastic reviews, and I've been waiting for all of the buzz to simmer down before picking it up -- I will bear your review in mind! Thanks for the honest review!!

Dot said...

Brilliant, honest review! I have been undecided about this one but I think I would find the 5 year old narrator very frustrating.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I liked it, but I almost gave up after the first 50 pages, as I could not get into the 5 year old's way of speaking.

Mrs. Fry said...

I read the first page on Amazon. OMG! I hated it, and knew it was not for me.

Great review.

Steph said...

Nadia, I'm so glad that you were able to post this honest review. You know that I also didn't like this book very much at all, for pretty much the exact same reasons that you list here. So much potential that I feel was ultimately wasted!

Ti said...

I haven't read this one yet but it will be interesting when I do because when I was five, I had, what I call, a somewhat traumatic childhood. My perception of what took place is not that of a 5-year-old's though. I was forced to grow up quickly so I wonder if I'll have a problem with Jack as well.

Nadia said...

Coffee and a Book Chick - Thanks! I'm looking forward to your thoughs on the book.

Dot, thank you! And yes it is frustrating having a 5 yr old narrate - UGH!

Bibliophile By The Sea - I'm glad you enjoyed the book; different strokes, right?

Brenda, thanks! And I'm glad you read that first page online, because that is what you get throughout - Jack's voice.

Steph, I totally agree with you that there was so much potential for this book, but it was never fulfilled. What a waste! And truthfully after reading your post I felt more comfortable writing my review - it helped me see that I wasn't the only one who felt that way about this book that everyone else seems to love to bits - plus what you wrote is exactly what I thought, too!. Thank you, Steph!

Ti, sorry to hear about your traumatic childhood experience - that really rots!
As for the book, well, it might be somewhat problematic reading through Jack's eyes what he perceives as his normal life and what we know isn't, since your experience caused you to grow up much more quickly. I'm sure it will be an interesting experience though. I'm looking forward to reading what you thought.

Lisa said...

I was just talking to my mom and she read this over the weekend and loved it. I'm glad that I'm going to be able to read it without having to pay for it. It seems to one of those that some people love and for others, like you, it just doesn't work.

Nadia said...

Lisa, I definitely agree with you that this book is the kind that you either love or hate - definitely has readers divided. I'm looking forward to your thoughts. Cheers!

NancyO said...

I read it some time back and was kind of on the fence about it. I actually thought Jack's voice worked but it was often a bit grating. I just didn't go gaga over the book like so many people did, but I did predict long before it came to the US that it was going to be a huge bestseller. My book group is reading this in January so I'll be interested in seeing what they think. Thanks for your review!

Greg said...

Hey I just stumbled upon this blog while looking for the cover art of this book and I thought I'd just say why Room hit me as hard as it did.

I also found the 5 year old narrative frustrating in the beginning because I couldn't figure out what he was talking about some of the time. And then my 6 year old little brother came into my room and started talking to me. This book made realize that kids only know what they know. What I mean by that is, they don't find things out until they're explained to. Realizing this made reading the book much easier and more interesting for me and is definitely on my top 10 of most absorbing reads. But I have my brother to thank for that!

I can see how people don't like it or aren't crazy over it. It's not one that I would read again the second I'm done with it, but it was still a great book with a different perspective, which was nice.

Facebook Status said...

Such a wonderful treat reading this book was,bcoz it was like NOTHING I'VE EVER READ BEFORE! It takes you out of your comfort zone and plunges you headfirst into the plight of others,the likes of which you had never ever imagined!!

Very beautifully narrated through the eyes of a little child, who is completely unaware of the world that exists outside the small room in which he and his mother are living a poor life as captives.

An AMAZINGLY written book that deals with a very POWERFUL issue, but does so with great sensitivity that is Gauranteed to MOVE YOU!!! The storyline will keep you captivated and make you turn page after page till the very end.

I very highly recommend it what has my new FAVORITE as a MUST READ for avid book lovers!!!!!!!

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Loved this book! Room is such an interesting concept, as it is written from the perspective of a 5 year old. There are parts that seem slightly far-fetched, but it is very well written, and the story is so compelling. A quick and good read.

Marlene Detierro said...

Room is intense, but it's so well written, relatable and humane. I cannot recommend it highly enough. I do recommend, however, that you don't start it until you have time to finish it. It is a one-setting novel.

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