Sunday, October 17, 2010

Room by Emma Donoghue

Time to grow up

Jack and Ma live in Room beneath Skylight.  They exercise every day and watch a lot of Television.  At night Jack is shut up in Wardrobe while Old Nick spends time with Ma.  One day Jack turns 5and Ma lets him know a secret, entrusting him with a job he does not really want - help them escape from Room.  And when he succeeds, his view of the world entirely changes.

This novel has its gimmicky moments but it really is very skillfully executed. Narrated by a five year old child, the first part is a legitimate white knuckled thriller.  It is impossible to put the book down - what will happen to our appealing five year old narrator and his resourceful mother, little more than a child herself? A horrible fate threatens. Heroism ensues. The source of a lot of the emotion (and the gimmick) is the child relying the terrifying facts of his situation –which to him is perfectly normal – their incarceration for years and years in a garden shed.

There are other things going on, of course, other levels of meaning. The garden shed is almost a platonic ideal – there’s one of everything – Duvet, Comb, Bath. There’s a fairy tale element here as well – Alice in Wonderland, a scary ogre. The most frightening part is the idea of having to entertain a young child for five years in a confined space. The tremendous amount of attention Ma pays to Jack in the garden shed is unlikely to be repeated on the Outside, with its distractions.  Their unnatural life giving bond is also depicted.

And then we get Outside. And in this section Emma Donoghue skillfully reveals numerous other characters by their dialogue. And it’s comical. I really enjoyed this book.

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