Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Book Review: Room by Emma Donoghue

Room: A Novel
Room by Emma Donoghue
Oddly enough, I came across this book via a post on Oh No They Didn't, which is really a celebrity gossip site. Someone thought that the trailer for this book (by the way, video trailers for books amuse me greatly) was worthy of a post. I clicked and was intrigued. The book has been on my library request list for a bit, and I finally got to pick it up yesterday. I read the whole thing in about three hours, unable to put it down.

The book, as you may already know because it's on various bestseller charts and is getting lots of press, is told from the perspective of Jack. Jack lives in Room with Ma. And we find out that Ma was kidnapped when she was 19 and has been kept in Room ever since. She's now 27, Jack is five. All Jack has ever known is this Room, and Ma works hard to make sure he doesn't question his living situation. She also makes sure he's educated and doesn't let him watch too much TV, using it as a tool only when necessary. And as I said to a friend who had already read the book, 200+ pages set just inside Room would probably be a bit much...but I'll refrain from giving you any true spoilers.

Jack talks and thinks like a five year old. A five year old who has never been outside and who has no concept of what's real and what's not. He's the traditional unreliable narrator in that respect. So it might take you some time to get into the rhythm of his world (I jumped right in, but I'd also read a bit about the story ahead of time). It's worth it though. And I had to read a section of about five pages midway through reallyreallyreallyfast because it was so intense. But there were times when I did wish the camera would swing away from Jack and show me other parts of the world, or where I wished Jack would overheard just a few of the conversations he simply reports are muffled. I always want more detail though.

This isn't a happy book, but it's also not gory or graphic. It's a fast read and a haunting one. I can't stop thinking about it, since it's unfortunately based on a few true stories. And it made me cry, but not for the reason you'd think. (I can't tell you or I'll spoil it for you, but there was a scene that is very close to my heart.) So yes, I'd say this is worth picking up if you can. I rarely read fiction and I liked it, so that should say something. Now I'm going to run back to the Great Typo Hunt, which I had started but put aside, to cleanse my palate.

And no, I guess I'm not giving you a full on review of Medium Raw after all. Here are my brief thoughts:
  • It was disjointed and uneven, with some chapters telling far more interesting stories than others. I skipped a few.
  • Parts of it were weirdly redundant within a few sentences; where was his editor?
  • I loved reading about his attempts to turn his kid off of McDonald's.
  • I was less interested in the autobiographical bits and the where-are-they-now pieces.
  • Bourdain has a way with words that always sucks me in. I can't help it.
  • And I'm a vegetarian who reads his work and is always amused at his vitriol. But I appreciated his honesty in how he reacted to a vegan asking him for support just after returning from a war zone.


  1. One scene made me cry, too. I wonder if it's the same one?

  2. Based on something you said on LJ, I suspect it was. ;)