The Room by Emma Donoghue. Full of spoilers.
June 29, 2013 § Leave a comment
I did not know anything about this book before I started reading it. A friend at work has loaded a number of excellent books onto my Kindle for me to start using it and so seeing Room amongst the books I assumed she has read it and it’s a good book to have to have read. Wrong. Emma Donoghue chose to tell a horrible terrible nauseating story of a kidnapped 19-year-old girl who was locked in a 12 square meter room for 7 years with the kidnapper raping her every other night, then giving birth to a boy she called Jack. The story is told by a 5-year-old Jack and this is where the beauty and the failure of the book lies.
Choosing a young narrator is very brave, choosing a 5-year-old to tell such a harrowing story, is borderline amateurish. It is nearly impossible, regardless of how well mentally and intellectually stimulated Jack was, to equip him with the depth of emotion and the necessary wisdom, to not have the story burn at the edges or fall in the middle or seem, as it often did, far-fetched (a child of that age simply cannot say or think certain things). I say borderline amateurish because the book has received a number of awards and was praised by quite a few prominent critics, and reading the first half of it I can see why – it is innovative, unexpected, it works. Constrained by the environment (the smallness of the Room), the story grows and benefits in other ways, but only just.
I felt like what was so captivating and inviting in Jack’s observations at the beginning, was exactly what made the book boring and dull at the end. The repetitive nature of his constrained and twisted vocabulary added a level of originality to the story, simultaneously taking away any possibility of allowing it seep through the edges what often happens with a more emotionally and intellectually developed narrator. It simply did not go anywhere.