“But I’m not plastic. I’m a real boy.”
I’m not sure it’s possible for anyone not to know what this is about, after all the Booker hype last year and the Orange hype this year, but just in case… Room is the story of Jack and his Ma, who have lived in Room Jack’s whole 5-year-old life. Ma teaches Jack vocabulary, they do their exercise around Bed, and they cook on Stove with Pot and eat from Plate… but nearly every night Jack hides in Wardrobe because Old Nick comes to visit. He usually brings food but he makes Ma very unhappy too.
I’m going to leave the summary at that because Donoghue takes this extraordinary kidnapping scenario much further but for me to explain it would rob a reader of the exquisite experience of witnessing everything through Jack. Donoghue has performed an amazing feat writing a full novel through the eyes of a bright but socially challenged 5-year-old who has the victim of captivity his whole life. The text is poignant, beautiful, and completely unlike anything I’ve read.
Ma is not a terribly exciting character – we actually learn very little about her apart from her functions in Jack’s life. Some of the characters who come into the novel in the second half are more acutely developed, in keeping with Jack’s developing ability and need to observe and describe them. Jack himself is sweet and docile, so I was glad to see him have a few tantrums for plausibility’s sake. Old Nick is suitably menacing and Jack’s incomprehension of his motives and violent behaviour is touching.
Buy it. Read it in one go, because as Audrey Niffenegger says on the front of my copy,
“Room is a book to read in one sitting. When it’s over you look up: the world looks the same but you are somehow different and that feeling lingers for days.”
At this point I need to apologise to Resident Cousin because she was reading this all in one sitting and I kept interrupting her with insignificant stories from my day. L – I owe you cake.
Reviews from other bloggers: Buried in Print