Review – Room – Emma Donoghue


Hello Internet. Welcome back for Review #32. I read this book over very few sittings. The powerful story and hopelessly gripping narrative devices frame this simple, yet incredible story. Be warned, it is not for the faint of heart.

Vile. That’s one of the few words I would use to describe this novel to anyone who wished to read it. Oh, it’s well written. The style (though somewhat grating) is perfectly suited to exploring the scenario of this book. The plot is hair-raising, the characters very interesting, and the entire book truly has a message which is simple, concise and revoltingly, horribly, utterly vile. I reject this kind of story with every fibre of my being, and this is why it is so utterly compelling. I was hooked, and like the quote on the front of the book, it was something I sat down to read, then when I stopped I looked at the world differently.

I don’t know if this is just me, but this premise makes me sick to my stomach. In short, the story is told from the first-person perspective of a little five-year-old boy who has been locked in the same house for all his life with no-one but his mother to care for him and occasional visits by someone who you find out pretty quickly is the pair’s jailer. Let me repeat that. A little boy, five years old, has been locked in the same, 11 feet square Room (capital) which served as his and his mother’s house for the whole of his life. He does not even know the world outside exists.

You find out, through somewhat cryptic yet always disturbing commentary by the small, naïve little boy, that him and his mother are trapped, and the man who comes every other night has them completely at his mercy. The mother is sexually abused whenever their jailer (called “Old Nick” in a horrifying perversion of a Christmas tale I will never see the same way again) comes in the night to bring meagre provisions, and the full extent of his sadism shows when the small, freestanding Room loses power and running water after the boy’s mother attempts to reason with Old Nick after a fight.

People of the internet, I struggle to write this. This book is shocking, and should well come with a warning label. Or one of those ratings which I otherwise despise, as it truly is something sickening. However, the part of my mind which is not horrified is (I am ashamed to admit) eating this up. This book is a perfect exercise of when a naïve protagonist is justified, as literally this child has been kept in a box their entire life. [When he and his mother actually escape], the repercussions are still felt and shown to be severe. And the foreshadowing of the segment names is very well-planned and subtle enough to be interesting.

I hope this is not based off a true story. I struggle to swallow that even in fiction someone could do this to a woman and her originally unwanted son. You heard me. This was a woman who was forced to have a baby in captivity thanks to abduction and enslavement, and the protagonist is her son. I can’t stress enough how horribly well-done this book is. A genuinely gripping piece of work.

Room was published in 2010 by Little, Brown and Company. It can be found on Amazon here.

Yours: J.M. Pear

Review – Room – Emma Donoghue