Thursday, September 16, 2010
Following the Booker: Room by Emma Donoghue
Jack is five.
He lives in a single room with his Ma.
The room is locked.
Neither Jack nor Ma have a key.
The novel opens as Jack turns five. Jack has never been outside of Room, as he calls it, and although he and Ma have access to a TV, Jack believes that everything he sees on the screen is make-believe: as far as he’s concerned, Room is the entire world. He’s happy enough with his lot, however, because he doesn’t know any different; Ma keeps him entertained, and he has her undivided attention. Their days have a structure, with time to sleep, a time to eat, to play, to watch TV - even a time for lessons. (And at night, which is when ‘Old Nick’ sometimes visits, Ma keeps Jack hidden away.)
But now Jack is five, and Ma tries to explain to him that - contrary to everything she’s told him previously - there is a world beyond Room. Jack finds the concept impossible to grasp, but when Old Nick cuts the power supply to Room, Ma realizes their situation is even more precarious than she had previously thought. She decides they have to act, and comes up with a plan.
Born in 1969, Emma Donoghue is an Irish writer who lives in Canada. Her fiction includes the bestselling Slammerkin.
***** (Average rating: 4 stars)
"...startlingly original and moving... the second half of this novel is a superb treatment of the after-effects of release. The unbearable tension of the first half of the novel requires this shift, and Donoghue judges it perfectly, taking her readers to the brink but never stepping over into sensationalism or horror." - Lesley McDowell, The Scotsman
"What saves this beautifully nuanced book from being in any way a voyeuristic reaction to true crime is less the descriptions of captivity than the inevitably changing nature of the child/parent relationship, which Donoghue explores here so minutely, recognisably and exultantly." - Catherine Taylor, The Sunday Telegraph
Read the New York Times review by Janet Maslin here.
Read an extract from the book on the Guardian's website here.