Author: Emma Donoghue // First published: September 2010 // Genre: Contemporary
This edition: 417 pages, published in June 2015 by Picador // Get it @TheBookDepository
Read in January 2016
Synopsis (from Goodreads)
Today I’m five. 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.
Jack lives with his Ma in Room. Room has a single locked door and a skylight, and it measures ten feet by ten feet. Jack loves watching TV but he knows that nothing he sees on the screen is truly real – only him, Ma and the things in Room. Until the day Ma admits there is a world outside.
Piecing together a well-formed opinion about this book is really complicated for me.
On the one hand, we have this very interesting and new (to me at least) concept of a story being told entirely from the point of view of a child. Both language and train of thought are different from what we are used to read. The book does a pretty good job at immersing the reader into the mind of this 5 year-old. Sometimes it was a little bit complicated to understand what he meant to say, because my brain (and I guess any adult’s brain) isn’t used to that way of thinking anymore. In that sense, it was interesting read from such a naive and honest point of view.
On the other hand, this book made me incredibly uncomfortable. And I don’t know how to articulate it without coming across as rude and disrespectful… And so, know that I really mean no disrespect to anyone when I say: I don’t get kids. Often times, they infuriate me because they think they know everything and trying to reason with them is just a nightmare (I was like this as a kid as well, I’m not trying to say that I was somehow better than the rest of them, because I was not; and I sometimes cringe at memories of myself as a child). And I have a very hard time dealing with this. So reading Room from the point of view of Jack was a bit of a challenge for me.
In the book, there is a big misunderstanding between Jack and the rest of the world. Because obviously Jack isn’t like any other child, he didn’t have the same experiences as “regular” children living in Outside, and my feelings towards this could go both ways: either I was irritated with the fact that Jack wanted everything to be the same all the time and didn’t really make an effort to understand the world around him, or I was irritated at the people around him not understanding that he could not possible comprehend what they were asking of him because of what his life was.
In short, there was a lot of irritation.
So I don’t know how to rate this book, because I ended up cringing so much, that I’m not sure I really liked it.
To be honest, even though the concept is interesting, it almost ended up feeling like a gimmick to me. The book was not bad by any means; it is a very powerful story told from a completely new point of view, giving the reader a new perspective on things, very different than if the book was told from Ma’s point of view for example. It’s not even that I didn’t enjoy myself while reading it, because one night I ended up reading over 100 pages, but it made me feel something so strange and unexpected, not very enjoyable, that I cannot give it a high grade. … If that makes sense…
There is also the problem of the “hype”. You know, that book that everyone and their mothers is talking about and saying how incredibly great it is. And I do not have the greatest track record with “hyped” books. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Gone Girl, A Darker Shade of Magic, The Knife of Never Letting Go… The more I hear people raving about a book, the more sceptical and cautious I get, and it usually doesn’t turn out that great for the book once I read it.
So maybe this is another case of “hyped book syndrome” for me…