Room by Emma Donoghue


Room by Emma Donoghue is the most engrossing book I have read this year.

I started reading Room on the train in to work one morning, and seriously considered riding around on the train all day until I got to the end of the story.

Room is written in the voice of Jack, who has just turned five. ‘Room’ is Jack’s whole world.  As you read, you realise Jack has never been outside and that his Ma has been a captive for seven years. The only visitor to the room is Old Nick, who is the ‘bringer’ of everything he and Ma have. When Old Nick visits, Jack hides in ‘Wardrobe.’

Jack and Ma play games that Ma has created, which provide him with exercise for his mind and body. They read their few books over and over and draw and make things such as ‘Eggsnake’, who lives ‘Under Bed’. They have a television, which Ma only allows Jack to watch Dora the Explorer and a few other shows, so his brain won’t be ‘mushed’. Jack believes the things he sees on television are not real, because Ma has taught him to believe the only real things in the world are those that happen in ‘Room.’

Every week day Jack and Ma climb up to ‘Skylight’  to play a game they call ‘Scream.’ After they scream they listen, although Jack doesn’t know what he and Ma are listening for.

Jack is funny without meaning to be, and tells his truths without any awareness of the horror or magnitude of the things he says. At times he seems much older than five years of age, but that is because of the intensive teaching that he has received while locked away with his mother, rather than any fault of the author. His mother is a strong character who loves her son and does the best for him that she possibly can in an awful situation.

I don’t want to write any more about the actual story of ‘Room’, because this is the kind of book that a reader should be able to experience without spoilers. Room was shortlisted for all sorts of prizes and I believe it deserved every nomination. The idea is clever and the story is well written. At first the naming of everything, such as ‘Room’ annoyed me, but it didn’t take long before I was too engrossed to care.

All I can say is, go to the bookshop and buy this book, or find it at the library and read it. You may not like it, but the story will certainly stay with you.

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  1. Anna C.

     /  April 9, 2014

    Great review! I hadn’t actually heard of this book until Donoghue was interviewed in the book review last week. She seemed hilarious and down to Earth. She also mentioned that President Obama bought “Room!”

    • Thanks Anna.
      I’ve also got a book of short stories by Emma Donoghue sitting in my pile of books to read which I’m really looking forward to. It is so exciting to discover an author you really enjoy and to learn that they have a back catalogue of books waiting to be read.
      Imagine being able to tell people that President Obama bought your book! I think I would drop that little bit of information into every coversation I had for the rest of my life.
      Happy reading, Rose

  2. I love this book. I think what struck me most was the sense of loss Jack feels at the end. What was a horror for his mother was a safe, happy world for him.

    • I agree, a year after reading Room, recognising that Jack misses his ‘normal’ life is exactly the point that has stayed with me all of this time.


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