Room by Emma Donoghue
I managed to pick up a proof copy of this a while back and was very excited to read it as not only was it announced as part of the longlist for the Man Booker Prize (and is now part of the shortlist also), my colleagues had been raving about it! It is very much based on the tragedies that have been brought to light in the media over the last couple of years involving people such as Natascha Kampusch who was abducted at the age of ten and was held in a cellar by her kidnapper for more than eight years, suffering all kinds of tortures until she managed to escape.
Room is narrated by Jack, a five year old boy who lives in ‘room’ with his mum. Jack has no idea that his mother was kidnapped or that there is a whole world outside of the one room in which they live. I won’t give too much information away regarding the plot so as not to ruin it for those of you who have yet to read it!
On paper this sounds like a fantastic novel – based on real events, something different to anything I have read before, and nominated for the Booker prize…. so why the hell didn’t I like it?! Unfortunately for me, I found there was only so much you could write about two people in a room together before the plot became a little dull… I found Jack’s innocence somewhat irriating throughout – the way he spoke was often infuriating and annoying, and the repetition of the description of the games he likes to play day in and day out just got a little tedious. I was just waiting for it to go somewhere. I wasn’t a big fan of the character of the mother either – just something about her grated on me – although Jack was her whole world at the time, she was often selfish and impatient with him. The story does develop more and it certainly brought me back into the story but by then I just knew that I didn’t love the characters or the way it was written and it was somewhat too late for me by then.
I would have liked to have seen the story told from the mother’s point of view as well – just to break up the constant child-like language and thought-processes used throughout.
It also begs the question of is it right to almost use the tragic stories of people like Natascha which is still so fresh in our minds since it happened – to create a work of fiction, to ultimately make money? There is something about it that just makes me feel unsettled somehow.
I have known many people who have loved this novel so I certainly don’t expect everyone to agree with my review of it. I do find it’s inclusion in the Booker shortlist a little odd – it seems to stick out amongst the other nominees but maybe this is what will give it the edge to win? Who knows…
Rating: 2 1/2 stars