Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads, Mount TBR 2017

Room – Emma Donoghue

Contemporary Fiction

I admit this book has been on my TBR ever since 2012 and there were a number of reasons why I put off reading it which in part was because I knew the narrator of the story is very young, just five in fact and I often struggle with child narrators. The other part is that it sounded way too miserable to put to the top of the list after all Jack and his Mum have been imprisoned in a room for his entire life…

But, I was glued to the book, it was mother apart from limited one of those I couldn’t put aside and while Jack’s narration probably isn’t a true reflection of how any child, even one whose whole vocabulary comes from another adult, it was pitched at a level to remind us he is a child, at a level so that whilst the innocence shone through but without compromising the telling of a story.

We get an idea of how Jack’s mum didn’t give up, she threw the whole of her energy into entertaining, nurturing and teaching Jack with limited resources, just five book and a TV for outside stimulation, everything else had to be invention on her part. There are physical education lessons which involve racing round the bed, all sixteen of Jack’s steps and using the bed to put on trampoline routines. She imposes strict routines for meals, for chores and for bedtime where Jack sleeps in the wardrobe to be out of sight if ‘Old Nick’ comes to visit. It is this, the sheer resilience of this young woman, only twenty-six at the point we enter the story, that prevents this from being a misery-fest and turns it into something quite special indeed.

Because Jack’s life is so narrow it would be very easy for the story to be repetitive and as fun as his musings over Dora the Explorer and Barney are, I’m pleased to confirm that the story has far more to offer than I initially expected. Through Jack’s eyes, and ears, we get to see how the pair ended up in the room in the first place allowing the reader to plug the gaps which may not completely take away the horror of the story unfolding but makes it a tad more bearable than if this had been told by the mother.

For me it was the latter chapters that had the most impact and gives rise to some of the important questions that perhaps aren’t easily answered. On Jack’s fifth birthday he is told by his mother that the life on the TV exists outside his room. There is far more than the slither of sky and moon he can see through the skylight if they stand on the table. The world is big, there are other people than the two he knows about and yet he struggles with the concept and questions things in a way a child born into a life which isn’t behind a locked door would never do.

Heart-rending and yet uplifting, Room is one of those books I think I’ll struggle to forget, so mesmerising is the tale, so appealing is its narrator and so horrifying a premise to dwell upon, I now understand why this book caused the stir it did when it was published in 2010.

Room was the thirty-fourth read in my Mount TBR Challenge 2017, and probably the last for the year so I missed my target by two.  It was purchased way back in August 2012 so it only took five plus years to read it!





First Published UK: December 2010
Publisher: Picador
No of Pages: 337
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US


A book lover who clearly has issues as obsessed with crime despite leading a respectable life

35 thoughts on “Room – Emma Donoghue

  1. I’ve never got round to reading this either, mainly because there was so much hype around it that I always felt that I knew what was going to happen. I’ll get round to it one day!


  2. I am glad to hear that you finally got a chance to read this one. I agree with you on everything that you said about the book. I read it early last year but reading your review reminded me of so much. Jack’s is quite a memorable narrator. Great review.


  3. This is one of those books I’ve been kind of curious about but a little put off by the storyline. I thought it would be either depressing or upsetting so I’m very glad to hear that isn’t the case. I may attempt it at some point (or possibly just watch the film).


    1. The overall subject is far from light-hearted but the presentation makes it far less of a miserable book than I expected – I think this is one where you either watch the film or read the book you don’t need to do both.


    1. Although I bought it I’ve gone to pick it up so many times and then put it back again as although I like crime fiction I’m not a fan of misery stories but the strength of character of the mother really adds something quite special that I’m sure will linger for quite some time.


  4. It is a different sort of book, isn’t it, Cleo? And it could have been a really, truly bleak story, too. But you have a point that there are some very uplifting things about it, and that saves it from being a ‘misery fest.’ I’m glad you enjoyed it.


  5. Cleo thanks for this review. I’ve been putting off “Room” for all of the reasons you described. I’ve heard so much about it that I thought it would be a depressing downer of a novel. You’ve set me straight.


    1. Do you know I thought I was the only one who’d bought this book and then dithered so it’s heartening to hear so many others had reservations – it isn’t depressing although it touches on difficult subjects it is quite uplifting in a way.


  6. I have had the book since 2016, and I saw (and loved) the movie. But I was hesitating on reading the book, but not because of the events. I had already seen those in the movie. I couldn’t imagine that a child narrator with limited language and perspective could hold my attention. So…when I started reading it, I wasn’t surprised to have a hard time with the child narrator’s language. I only read the first chapter, and I felt frustrated about struggling that much all the way through. Thanks to your review, I will probably give it another try. Thanks!.


    1. I’m not a huge fan of young narrators and I fully understand why people will struggle but personally I thought that because Jack was an articulate young boy once I got into the rhythm I appreciated what was said in the gaps between his understanding and what we as adults know. I hope you fare better next time if you do decide to give it another go.


  7. Well, I’m delighted you enjoyed it so much and your review makes it sound tempting, but you’ll still never persuade me to read it. I think perhaps the problem is I think it’s a jolly good idea to lock all kids up in rooms until they’re about 30… 😉


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