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Book Review: Room by Emma Donoghue

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It would appear that Room by Emma Donoghue is the hot new novel for book groups this summer. It follows a long line of books that almost revel in the misfortunes of the victim – allowing middle class ladies in their book groups to enter the sinister world of the serial rapist/kidnapper.

Donoghue uses the Conradesque device of delayed discovery to draw her reader in – gradually giving us clues as to the whereabouts of her characters. It is with a mixture of horror and resignation that the reader realises that Jack and Ma, our two protagonists, are prisoners in the Room. Horror because we realise that something dreadful has happened to put them there in the first place and resignation because now we realise that we are reading yet another novel about abuse, kidnap and the suffering of young children.

Donoghue’s use of language drums home forcibly to the reader that the narrative voice is that of a child, but I have to say that the device begins to pall quite quickly and Jack’s use of personification began to irritate me. He speaks of Table, Room, Rug as if they are characters he knows and loves, and although this adds a moment of interest it does tend to annoy rather.

Perhaps I am being a little harsh? I do admit to reading the whole book in one sitting and for any novel to hold my attention like that it has to have something special about it. The read was like a roller coaster at times and at one point I sat with my heart beating wildly, tears rolling down my cheeks. I won’t spoil the story for you, but after this particular point, for me, the book went downhill.

I reached the end feeling glad that I had read it, but really not caring too much about the future of the Jack or Ma. It’s certainly worth a read, but don’t expect to be putting it in your ‘All-time Favourite’ section of the book shelf.

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