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Book Review: Room by Emma Donoghue

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Room is told in the voice of a five year old boy who has been locked up with his mother in a sound-proofed shed for his entire life. His mother was abducted by a rapist and has been held in the shed for seven years, giving birth to the boy, Jack, alone and without medical attention. If that sounds bleak, it isn’t – nor does that brief overview contain any spoilers: Room is not a mystery but an exploration of the indomitability of the human spirit, the bond between mother and child and the gifts of literacy, language and play as they are passed down the generations, helping us to understand the world we live in.

The story focusses on the relationship between mother and child and the way she manages to create a magical childhood for him in the confines of their horrible prison. It’s a paean to the power of storytelling. It’s a really beautiful book.

I had resisted reading it, thinking I would find it irritating to read a story told by a five year old child. But the narrator holds the attention — he’s very engaging company. Emma Donoghue is a very, very skilled writer. Room is a remarkable achievement. It’s one of the best books I have read in years.

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About Helen Smith