You know a book is good when, a few novels later, you’re still thinking about it. Room is one of those books.
It tells the story of Jack, a five year old boy, and his mother (‘Ma’), who remains unnamed throughout. Both are imprisoned in a shed at the bottom of a garden.
Ma was kidnapped as a girl, and has spent the last seven years of her life incarcerated in this tiny cell. Jack is the product of the sexual abuse she has endured from her kidnapper, who Jack refers to as Old Nick.
This brief description may sound horrific, and indeed the premise of the book is dreadful, reminiscent of real life stories like that of Joseph Fritzel. Don’t let it put you off though, because Room is a literary masterpiece.
It is told entirely from the point of view of Jack. That Emma Donoghue has so convincingly captured the voice of such a young boy is, in itself, a good enough reason to read this story. But it’s far from the only reason.
The narrative is original, compelling, gripping, fascinating, and quite wonderful. The toughest scenes are handled delicately, seen through a child’s eyes. Uncomfortable in places certainly, but not to the point that you feel you don’t want to carry on.
What makes the book so captivating is the conflicting world views of Jack and his mother. For the boy, ‘Room’, the shed-cell, is the only world he has ever known. It is normal. He is happy. He is not imprisoned in the same way his mother, who has known freedom and the outside.
Thus when Ma decides that the time has come to escape, Jack is far from convinced. To him, ‘outside’ is (literally) another planet, somewhere that can never be visited.
I won’t tell you any more than that, as to do so would be to spoil the book. Instead, I recommend you download a copy today to your favourite eReader, and delve in.