Room by Emma Donoghue is a book that has been gaining in popularity over the last little while, namely because it was recently turned into a movie. I am writing this as the Oscar nominations are coming out, but the ceremony has not happened yet. I have not seen the film at the time I am writing this either, but if the book is any indication, I am sure that there is at least one win in Room’s future.
This book deals with both an interesting and controversial topic: a man kidnapped a 19-year-old woman and at the book’s beginning, has been holding her in a shed in his backyard for seven years. Considering the subject matter of this book, I was a little nervous about if it would read as authentic. Granted, I know that I would be unable to tell form a personal experience standpoint, having never been kidnapped and held captive for any length of time. However, I am still able to tell if something seems “off” with a book even if I do not have experience with the topic. It happens a lot actually, considering I read lots of science fiction and fantasy.
I did read some articles where Emma Donoghue spoke a little about the research she did for her novel, including frequenting home-design websites and the like to construct the room in which she was going to place her characters. I think all of that basic stuff was well done. However, I am unsure about the psyche and attitude of Ma and Jack throughout the book. I have only read about cases of people being held in captivity briefly, including the one about which Emma Donoghue spoke (the Fritzl case), as I would honestly be terrified about being kidnapped if I did that in depth. Granted, I might learn something about survival, but I stopped at the tip of the iceberg.
I think that, from what I can gather, the experiences of Ma and Jack are quite common, though not exact replicas. The thing that, looking back, does not seem quite right is Jack’s “perfect” health. Somehow, I find it odd that he would be in that state after being born in that room and never leaving at all for five years. Even with the amenities Old Nick granted Ma and Jack. I think that Emma Donoghue went with a rare case in order to preserve some “youthfulness” or make the subject matter lighter. For what it is, I think the book was well written and definitely worth a read. A little part of me was hoping for a darker read, but I do like the way she handled this story.
The last thing I want to mention here is how she tells the whole story through Jack’s point of view. I ink this is what gives the story its “sheltered” nature, in that there are things of which Jack is unaware or just does not understand. This includes what happens when Old Nick visits. I understood what was happening and shuddered each time. I am glad it was something Jack could not understand.
If you have read the book, I would love to hear what you thought! In addition, what did you think of the movie? If you have read/seen both, what did you think about how they adapted it?
Author: Emma Donoghue
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers