Reviews from Lord Taylor of Glencoe
Room: Emma Donoghue, October 7—21, 2014
My rating: ♦♦♦◊◊
Room is told from the perspective of five-year-old Jack, who has lived forever in the titular Room with his mother, Ma. He considers the room to be the extent of the planet and he, his mother and ‘Old Nick’ who brings food to be the only inhabitants. Everything changes when Ma admits she lied; there’s a whole world outside the door.
Jack’s narration features the syntactical misunderstandings you souks expect for a child of his age (“She putted it down/The tree is twice my tall”), but it’s easy to read. After a very short while you get used to his voice. More than just enhancing the character, Jack’s narration helps the reader understand what is an enormously different paradigm. For example, Jack speaks almost entirely in general nominatives; the rug is Rug, the wall behind the bed is Bed Wall and so on. These inanimate objects are treated as proper nouns, bestowed genders and are generally given far greater status than normal, because when your world is a room, it’s composite parts are much more significant.
Although I found Ma alternately tragic and unlikeable, given that events are told from Jack’s point of view we are perhaps not always encouraged to feel as much sympathy for her as we otherwise might. More prominent is her relationship with Jack and the way it evolves over the course of the book.
Donoghue writes with skill and passion. As well as being truthful to Jack’s cognitive and emotional development, she writes with depth and emotion. Some parts are heRtbreaking, others incredibly tense.
Nothing very important happens during the first full act, but it’s fascinating nevertheless to be inducted info this bizarre situation. This wanes, and throughout the second half of the novel Jack’s challenges become more and more minor. It seems the climax is somewhere around the two-thirds to one-half mark, and the fourth act verges on, dare I say it, dull. Rather than build to a climax, Room slows to an eventual stop.
A fascinating concept with intelligent and emotive writing, Room is let down by its awkward structure and variable pace.