Review by Kate Benson
A young woman imprisoned in a modified garden shed somewhere in America,
regularly raped by her captor, but otherwise left alone, with enough food, a few books,
a television. She becomes pregnant, gives birth. Emma Donoghue’s novel is clearly
inspired by cases such as those of Elizabeth Fritzl, and Jaycee Lee Dugard in California.
Room turns this scenario inside out. It is all about the mother and is narrated by her
five-year-old son, Jack.
The mother (“Ma” – we never learn her name) has kept herself sane by devoting all her energy to giving Jack as normal an upbringing as possible. Their average day in “room” (their 12ft-by-12ft domain) is filled with “phys Ed”, cooking lessons and model-making. Although they use the television for education and distraction, Jack has no idea that anything at all exists outside “room”: the sun and moon are God’s two faces, and Jack is always safe asleep in “wardrobe” when “Old Nick” comes in through “door”.
The overall book club view of Room was ”Disturbing but engaging due to the unusual style and the subject” and the recurring question “What would you have done in the same situation?”.
The group was split about whether they loved or hated the narration of the five year old boy with comments ranging from ‘loved it’ ‘realistic, irritating’ and ‘just not plausible’. We did all agree that the tension built in the first half, fell flat in the second and several people struggled to plough through it to the end.
There were some annoying, huge holes in the plot but on the whole everyone related to some part of the book, despite the unpleasant storyline.
Scores for “Room” – modern psychological, thought provoking fiction
2 ** 2