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Room by Emma Donoghue

Written by · Published Mar 16, 2017 · Filed under Literary fiction

Room

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I found this book unique and beautifully written from the first person point of view of a five year old child, Jack, who has a sparkling dialogue despite his confinement in a small shed with his protective Ma.

I did find the first few chapters confusing in terms of the use of language and style, until I realised the enormity of Jack and Ma’s tragic situation. There was no narrative hook by way of explanation on the first page to draw you in and hint at what was to follow.

I enjoyed the second part of the book more, which explained the rehabilitation of mother and son following their miraculous and traumatic escape. It dealt with the horrors in more detail, albeit gently, as perceived from the point of view of a young child’s limited understanding of a whole world he never even knew existed. I was struck by how something as simple and everyday as raindrops on your face was portrayed as terrifying if you’ve never had the experience before.

I found the last part of the book, where mother and son revisited the room one last time so Jack could say goodbye, very harrowing. Ma wanted a stillborn daughter relocated away from the monstrous place and all the memories associated with it. Donoghue communicated this utterly gut-wrenchingly sad situation using simple and sparse language.

I am profoundly affected by books and films related to real-life tragic events, often preferring to avoid them altogether. Although Room is a work of fiction, it nonetheless has parallels with some real-life cases, making it a difficult read. This is a contrast to many thrillers, which are far more removed from reality, even sometimes incorporating supernatural elements, making them more enjoyable.

Nonetheless, this is one of the most skilfully well-plotted and -written books I have ever read.

Andrea Salt

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