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Friday, September 24, 2010

"Room" by Emma Donoghue (Reviewed by Liviu Suciu)


Official Emma Donoghue Website
Order "Room" HERE
Read an Excerpt from Room HERE
See an Interactive Image of *the* Room

INTRODUCTION: "Room" came to my attention when it was first longlisted and then later shortlisted for the prestigious 2010 Man Booker award. It seemed to be one of the most controversial novels on the list and looking at its blurb, it is easy to imagine why.

"It's Jack's birthday, and he's excited about turning five. Jack lives with his Ma in Room, which has a locked door and a skylight, and measures 11 feet by 11 feet. He loves watching TV, and the cartoon characters he calls friends, but he knows that nothing he sees on screen is truly real - only him, Ma and the things in Room."

"Room" is a book that needs to be approached without knowing too much about it since the first two parts: "Presents" and "Unlying" have different flavors if you let Jack's voice to guide you in exploring what's what or if you already know.

FORMAT/CLASSIFICATION: "Room" stands at about 350 pages and is divided into five parts each named by one word that is actually quite important in what follows. Jack narrates throughout and his voice never falters and remains credible to the end.

Contemporary fiction at its best and a truly emotional novel; maybe you need to have a child to truly appreciate it, but I would still highly recommend it to everyone.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: "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?""

So Jack wonders in the superb first paragraph of Room that decided me to read the novel. I was skeptical that the author will maintain the credibility of a five year old boy's voice throughout several hundred pages, but she did...

The five year old does not know anything else since he was born and has lived all his life there - he has a TV with 3 channels and "bunny years" that can make them clearer or fuzzier, but his viewing schedule is regulated by Ma so "his brain does not turn to mush".

Jack and Ma also have 10 books - five picture ones, though the latest one has too many "old words" and five with pictures only on the cover - the titles are really funny,
Twilight and Da Vinci included - and some other stuff like five colored crayons so he has quite an interesting perspective on the world. Jack also has a tight schedule every day and its exploration forms a big part of the novel in the beginning, so we can call "Presents" and "Unlying", "normality in strangeness".

After the short transitory third part which is the weakest one of the novel since the happenings there stretch a little bit the suspension of disbelief, especially considering the whole carefulness in the setup of the "room", the book switches focus but Jack remains the same wide-eyed five year old trying to cope with what he sees now as "weirdness". So while the enjoyment of the first half of the novel was derived from "normality in strangeness", the second part deals with "strangeness in normality" and keeps the tale fresh and interesting.

Room (A++) is an impressive achievement and the one novel that imho - based on finishing three and reading enough from two more of the six shortlisted novels - deserves to win the Booker.

2 comments:

lisamarieelliott said...

Little doubt, the dude is completely just.

Facebook Status said...

One of the most touching books I've ever read, Room is very poignant. The most ingenious tool used by the author is the narration. The whole story is narrated by the child himself, and how he sees the "world" around him. The innocence is very touching.
Though sometimes the book may seem to drag on, but the end effect is simply fabulous.

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