REVIEW: Room by Emma Donoghue

Title: Room
Author: Emma Donoghue
My overall rating: 3/5
Get it here from Amazon

First thoughts

At first, I was really excited to get stuck into this book. For Christmas I was lucky enough to get a gift card for a bookshop and Room was one of the first books I bought in 2017, thus starting my Goodreads Reading Challenge. There was a huge hype surrounding it when I bought it and I knew it had been turned into a film so I was expecting big things from Donoghue, especially as it addresses such a sensitive topic. 

I must admit, the size of the book concerned me a little as I knew the majority of it was set in one room, so how was Donoghue going to retain my attention for 400-odd pages with a story set in one place?! I hadn't heard of Donoghue before picking up this book so it wasn't as if I had trust in her writing to keep me interested, but I decided to take the plunge anyway.

Good bits

Right, so. Before I completely rip into Room I guess I should say what I liked about it. I found the exploration of Jack's psychological state extremely interesting. I could think for hours about how someone who has never seen Earth before would view it in the purest way. Reading parts of Jack's narration sometimes sounded similar to those writing exercises primary school teachers would get us to do, explaining our society to aliens. Whilst reading Room I found myself looking at my surroundings through his perspective: what would he think of school? What would he think of playgrounds? Would he think the people dressed up as characters in Disneyland were real? I just found it so fascinating. 

At first I found Jack's voice very hard to understand. Too many broken sentences and mistakes. But once I forced myself to stop being so meticulous, I realised how much it added to the story. Jack had never been to school, only had one other person to learn from and had never interacted with other children his own age. Of course he's not going to be able to express himself clearly, it just shows how underdeveloped he is which in turn adds an extra element to the portrayal of his psychological state that I find so interesting. However, this meant that when I started my next book after reading Room, I was actually shocked to be reading proper English, which is something that hasn't happened before.

Something I was really impressed with was the character of Ma. Donoghue presents Ma as such a strong and intelligent woman who really does try her best for her son. Ma is a great role model for Jack (and for women in general) because of the way she has handled the unfortunate situation she has been placed in without her consent. She makes the best out of what she has.

Bad bits

Overall, I was definitely expecting it to be better than it was because of the hype. Lots of people had raved about it and so I felt little bit let down by it. I feel bad saying this but the first half of the book is very, very boring and repetitive. My fears had been realised; I was struggling to stay engaged because of the tedious and uneventful story line that lasted for way too long. Things did pick up around the 200-page-mark when they were planning and executing Jack's escape, there were some really good passages that created tension and kept me on the edge of my seat. But as soon as Jack got to hospital, the story went back to being a bit dull. Sorry. After thinking about it, I can see how the uneventful aspect of the first half of the book is a reflection of Jack and his Mum's monotonous life, but this doesn't exactly make for a good read, does it. 

I feel like I don't have much to say because not much happened, and I'm not even sure I would find something interesting to analyse if I gave it a second read. I do think that if the long, drawn out sections that focus on Jack's recovery in hospital were replaced with showing his life as a teenager/young adult, the book would be more engaging in general. As I said before, it's very compelling to see how Jack's mind works as a child, but it would add so much more if we could see how his childhood affects his later life and how he deals with the world as an individual rather than an extension of his Mum.

Afterthoughts

This is a very rare occurrence but I can definitely see how the film would be better than the book. It feels as if Donoghue wanted to focus more on the characters than the plot, but the characters aren't developed as much as they'd need to be to make the book engaging enough. However, Room explores an interesting concept and I am glad I read it as it has opened my eyes to another way of looking at life.

Comments

  1. Another honest but balanced (and therefore useful) review. Thanks.

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