Title/Author: Room by Emma Donoghue
Publisher/Date: Little, Brown and Company, 2010
Where I got it: Amazon, for my Kindle
Why I read it: It’s been on my to-read list since last fall, when I kept hearing about it everywhere, and it sounded really interesting
To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it's where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits. Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it's not enough...not for her or for him.
So first of all, the above synopsis is actually only half of the one posted on Goodreads because I feel that the full synopsis gives away too much of the book. If you’re going to read this, you should go into it not knowing much more than the premise. So don’t read the back, and don’t read the full summaries on Goodreads or Amazon.
Anyway, on to the review:
My expectations for Room were very high, but at the same time I was a little worried about a novel with a 5-year-old narrator. While this was partly what attracted me to the book, I thought it might be difficult to both convey enough information and still have the narrator really seem 5 years old. But ultimately, I think that Donoghue handled this wonderfully. Jack is a superb narrator and I do not think that this novel could have been told from any other point of view. His perspective is so unique, and while he may be a bit more descriptive than the average child, I did not have a problem believing that he was so young. Certain aspects of the novel do seem oversimplified, though: some things work out too easily, and others just aren’t as complicated as they should be. But I don’t think there is very much that Donoghue could have done to explain these while staying in Jack’s perspective; Jack couldn’t understand everything that was going on—and indeed, much of the novel focuses on Jack’s totally skewed perception of the world, resulting from growing up in the Room and from what his Ma told him. It’s heartbreaking but very interesting to see how Jack perceives the world. To that end, I loved how much detail Donoghue included regarding Jack’s perceptions and the various aspects of the world that he did not know or did not understand. I think she thought of many things that I would have never considered, like the fact that at age five Jack has never worn shoes before because there is no reason to within the confines of the Room.
I did find the middle of the book kind of boring. While I didn’t have any trouble getting through it, that chunk of the book just doesn’t stand out to me. And in fact, while I enjoyed Jack’s narration and reading everything that happens to him and his Ma, I guess I was expecting more. I can’t say that I was really disappointed, but I will say that I didn't love Room as much as I expected to, nor was it the emotional roller coaster I anticipated (I feel like it moved too quickly to be extremely emotional). I really, really wanted to love this book. I wanted it to shred me up then piece me back together. But my expectations were too high. It was very interesting and compelling, with a fascinating premise, and I do consider it a worthwhile read, but it was not quite what I expected.
3.75 slightly hesitant stars (it was hard enough to get myself to drop this below 4, but I just don’t feel like it really was a 4…)