September 19, 2010

Room - Emma Donoghue

"Un-put-down-able" would be the best non-word that I can think of to describe this book. I can't quite say that I polished it off in a day as it was after midnight when I finally reached the back cover, but it was close.

In case you have missed the buzz surrounding this book, it is the story of a girl who was kidnapped at the age of 19 and locked in a room for 7 years; as told by her 5-year old son, Jack.

I heard Emma Donoghue interviewed a few weeks ago and she was influenced by the real-life story of the Austrian father who imprisoned his daughter in the basement for many years which hit the media a few years ago when the situation was discovered.

The book isn't perfect. I had trouble at first believing Jack's voice. For a child who is already able to read Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and write and parrot long passages heard on television, his grammar should be better than it is. My almost-4-year-old nephew speaks better English than Jack. And even if he knows the word "sarcasm", I can't see a 5-year-old being able to recognize it.

But even though this bothered me in the first few pages, I quickly forgot about these quibbles as I got drawn into the story. And I really was drawn into it - I found myself harshly jarred back to reality when the phone rang; and I had trouble falling asleep after finishing as the world of the book seemed more real than the real world.

It is a very well crafted story, with 5 separate sections: Presents (describing life in Room as experienced by Jack), Unlying (Jack discovering that there is a real world outside of room - his mother undoing the lies that she has been telling him), Dying (the escape from Room), After (the aftermath of the escape), Living (learning to live outside of Room).

This book is the only Canadian book to make the shortlist for the Man Booker Prize, and I wouldn't be surprised to see it on other book prize lists this year. Certainly all of the buzz that I have seen/heard/read about it is positive, and I have to agree with that buzz.

This is yet another book towards the Canadian Book Challenge over at The Book Mine Set.


Buried In Print said...

I haven't read this one yet, so I am studiously avoiding spoilers, but I did risk attending her launch this week. She mentioned that she actually took a lot of the dialogue from her (then-5-year-old) son directly; I've found a huge variation in that kind of thing personally, how much two children the same age can differ in various skillsets. But feeling that an author has been off on that has interfered with my enjoying other books for sure.

Kate said...

Buried in Print - you will probably enjoy this book a lot! The language issue didn't interfere with my enjoyment once I got past the first few pages, it just seemed strange that his expressive language would be so far behind his receptive language skills. It probably is in line with the average 5-year-old's language; but the character in the book is so advanced in his reading skills that he is able to read Alice in Wonderland, so I would have thought that his speech would have kept up. I have a Speech Language Pathologist co-worker who is also a bookworm - I'll have to ask her if she's read it yet and get her opinion!

Wanda said...

There is a definite buzz about this book, I think I'm going to have to put it on my must read list.

Would love to hear more about what your co-worker thinks if they read the book.

Kate said...

Wanda - I'll post a comment here if my co-worker has read the book. Definitely put it on your must-read list, and I'll look forward to your review!

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.