Friday, September 17, 2010
Room by Emma Donoghue
I don't typically review books marketed for adults on this blog unless I think they have a lot of crossover appeal--I skip those in favor of catching on on new and old reads that I want to talk about! Room by Emma Donoghue (Little, Brown) might not have that appeal, but I'm starting to wonder if it's going to be so well-known that it gets reads even by teens who are full-time YA devotees. It's a story that's been happening to teens, at any rate, and a book I would have read myself when I was a teenager.
Room was inspired by real events, and disturbing ones; I'm sure you've heard several stories of teenage girls kept in confinement by older men, and who have then had children while imprisoned. Donoghue's tale, told by one such child, is simultaneously softened and made more gruesome through her choice of narrator.
Jack is a five-year-old boy who's lived in Room with Ma--all of his life. They wake up in the morning and have breakfast and a bath, and then they have Phys Ed, which is trampoline on the bed or laps around the table. There are games to play, a giant toilet-tube fortress, clothes to wash, and (in order not to rot brains) just an hour or two of TV a day, where things that are not real flash by on the screen. Only Room is real, and Old Nick who comes to Room in the night when Jack's hidden away in the wardrobe, and then Jack stays quiet and counts the squeaks of the bedspring. And then, one day, Ma tells Jack something that will very much change his world: there is an Outside. It is real. Real for real.
The really fascinating thing about this book is the point of view; what if all you'd ever known was a single room? What happens when you've never been in a moving vehicle, or seen something more than twenty feet away from your nose? What if you've never had to be private, or had to understand something as yours or not-yours? It's a painful, excruciating read, and one that will certainly cause readers to question some plotting (why that, now, why not this, why then), but if you can stomach the idea, the rest is incredibly intriguing. The novel has been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.
You can read a bit of the book on the Hachette website here and there's an interactive version of Room here. The trailer: