Have you ever picked up a book without knowing what it was about it? Have you ever had a friend recommend something, and trusted them so completely that you don’t ask questions?
Have you ever picked up a book and held no expectations about what that book will contain, only to have it totally and completely blow your mind?
I have. This is that book.
Room / Emma Donoghue
Jack is five, and excited about his birthday. He lives with his Ma in Room, which has a locked door and a skylight, and measures eleven feet by eleven feet. He loves watching TV, and the cartoon characters he calls friends, but he knows that nothing he sees on screen is truly real – only him, Ma and the things in Room. Until the day Ma admits that there’s a world outside…
A friend sent me a list of books that she thought I should read, and I’m slowly working my way through them. Three weeks ago, I started Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things, and ten days later I finished it. It was a good read, with truly brilliant moments in it, but I have to admit that overall I found it a bit of a slog.
The morning I put the book down for the last time, I picked up Room. I’d finished it by lunchtime.
Room is a conundrum. I thought the five-year-old narration of Jack would grate on me by the midpoint of the book, but it never did. Jack’s inner monologue throughout the book allows the events to unfold before your eyes. It removes the third person newsreader feeling. It removes the over-the-top emotive descriptions we get from older narrators penned by other writers.
It delivers blunt, childlike thoughts that are no less beautiful for their bluntness. We simultaneously feel innocent like Jack and dismayed by his innocence as events unfold. We want to wrap him up in cottonwool and shake him out of his naivety.
Forgive the ‘book review’ that doesn’t actually say anything. I don’t do spoilers, and this is a tough book to review without giving spoilers. So I’ll dive straight into the standout lines.
- I was four last night going to sleep in Wardrobe, but when I wake up in Bed in the dark I’m changed to five, abracadabra.
- Ma knows everything except the things she doesn’t remember right, or sometimes she says I’m too young for her to explain a thing.
- Today is one of the days when Ma is Gone. She won’t wake up properly. She’s here but not really. She stays in Bed with the pillows on her head.
- How can TV be pictures of real things? I think about them all floating around in Outside Space outside the walls, the couch and the necklaces and the bread and the killers and the airplanes and all the shes and hes, the boxers and the man with one leg and the puffy-hair woman, they’re floating past Skylight.
- Ma twists her mouth. “He thinks we’re things that belong to him, because Room does.”
- Near the start, there’s two words I never saw before, Ma says they’re her names like TV persons have, what everybody in Outside used to call her, it’s only me who says Ma.
These are the standout lines from early in the book. Like I said, no spoilers. But you can read plenty more standout lines when you read the book. Because you should read this book.
Thank you (and congratulations) for sending this book out into the world, Emma Donoghue. Highly recommended for anyone and everyone. You can purchase this book from Booktopia here (where it’s 37% off at the time of publishing), or from Book Depository here (where it’s 41% off at the time of publishing).
Have you read Room? What did you think?
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