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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Review: Room by Emma Donoghue



I had been hearing a lot about this one book that suddenly everyone was talking about. Whether I checked other book bloggers, browsed on the book sites, or generally read reviews about new and interesting books, everyone had some exciting and really good comments about this book. Everyone was recommending this book to friends and on sites.

The book I am talking about is ‘Room’ by author Emma Donoghue.

I was reading a few heavy-weight books just before I picked up this one, so my mind was on a lighter genre. But since I had just received ‘Room’ in my mail, one look at the cover and the blurb and it definitely became a read-right-now sort of a book.

Before I go on to the review, here is a short look at the opening lines, which got me hooked almost immediately:
‘Today I’m five. I was four last night going to sleep in Wardrobe, but when I wake up in Bed in the dark I’m changed to five, abracadabra. Before that I was three, then two, then one, then zero. “Was I minus numbers?”
“Hmmm?” Ma does a big stretch.
“Up in Heaven. Was I minus one, minus two, minus three - ?”
“Nah, the numbers didn’t start till you zoomed down.”

It is quite difficult to review Room entirely without giving away the story. But I will attempt to give you a feel of this amazing book that I have still not been able to come out of. Room is the story of five-year-old Jack and his Ma. The book opens with Jack turning five. Jack and his Ma live in a single eleven-by-eleven ROOM. This is Jack’s world, the world he has known since the time of his birth, the one single ROOM where he has lived his entire existence, the place he thinks is the world. He knows this ROOM to be the only real place, that anything or anyone can exist beyond this room is out of his wildest imagination.
This ROOM, his world, is precious to him. There is Bed where Ma sleeps, there is Wardrobe inside which he sleeps, there is Rug, Lamp, TV, all of which are real identities for him, objects that take on individual personalities to which he is emotionally attached. Ma is the only ‘real’ human being he has ever come in contact with. The rest of the humans he sees are inside TV, and he knows it’s a make-believe world, all these pictures of trees, birds, sun, moon, girls, boys, people – he knows all these are simply made-up things, just like the stories he hears from Ma.
That Jack and Ma have been kept isolated in a Room forcibly is evident. Why and by whom is something that the reader will slowly discover, a discovery that will rip apart your feelings.
The first few lines of the story are evidence enough of Emma Donoghue’s immense understanding of children. That she chooses to use five-year-old Jack’s voice for the story is a commendable feat, one that takes us to the depths of innocence, which lets us delve into the curiosities of a little mind, as well as take hope in the immense positivity of a young mind that is yet untarnished by the world outside. Emma Donoghue has been successful in understanding the workings of the young minds. There is detailing in her observation of children. From little details like the names of cartoon characters, their peculiarities, their songs, actions and stories, to the more observant details of the kind of questions little ones have, more specifically, to the way they put forth these questions and observations – Emma Donoghue has succeeded in capturing it fully.
Room comes with a measure of suspense. The reader is always hooked on to the story – why is Jack scared, who is coming, why is Ma scared, why are they inside this room in the first place, how come no one knows, will they get any help, will Jack ever know there is a world outside that ‘really’ exists? These are questions that will assail you from the first few pages itself.
For Jack, the ROOM is his world, it’s the place he loves, it’s the place whose every nook and corner he is aware of, it’s his play-place, his rest-place, his home.
For Ma, the ROOM is a cell where she is captive, a windowless room that is claustrophobic with its walls and boundaries, with the horror that it brings forth.
Room is a book that will make you look at life all over again, with a fresh new perspective. It will teach you to think many times before you take anything for granted anymore, it will make you realize the importance of all that you have, it will make you value your freedom, your life.

Details about the book: Paperback
Title: Room
Author: Emma Donoghue
Year: 2010
Publishers: Picador
No. of Pages: 401

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Personal verdict: Must-Read

- Debolina Raja Gupta