Room – Emma Donoghue

Rating: 7.5/5

Review:

I love seeing the weird and wacky parts of life. I love reading about things that I will never (hopefully never) experience. I love looking through the eyes of horrible, deranged people and going along for the rollercoaster ride that are their thoughts.

However, I’ve never read from the perspective of such a young child. Of someone so inexperienced in the world. Someone who wants to ask questions but doesn’t know what they are.

Jack is the one who asks the questions. He asks about the walls, the rug, the plant and the skylight. Ma tells him the answers. But then suddenly the answers change. He is five now so Ma is telling him about Outside and that the TV is real and that Room is not the whole world. And that Room is a cage and that the keeper of the keys is Old Nick.

Room is a disturbing look at kidnapping and confinement. With so many horrible stories coming to light and being ingrained in the minds of people, stories like this offer a chance at voyeurism that simply aren’t appropriate when real people are involved.

How could we possibly forget events like those of Fritzl’s dungeon? Even while reading about the release of the innocent victims, I couldn’t stop my nosy brain from trying to visualise just how that dungeon logistically worked.

And part of those curiosities was wondering how the victims retained their sanity. How could they hold onto hope for so long?

“I used to dream about being rescued,” she says. “I wrote notes and hid them in the trash bags, but nobody ever found them.”

“You should have sent them down Toilet.”

“And when we scream, nobody hears us,” she says, “I was flashing the light on and off half the night last night, then I thought, nobody’s looking.”

“But-”

“Nobody’s going to rescue us.”

I don’t say anything. And then I say, “You don’t know everything there is.”

But Room isn’t an indulgent and perverse look at captivity. The author never gives more information than is needed for precisely that moment. True to the age bracket of her narrator, she stays in the present and only focuses on something when it becomes part of Jack’s world. Due to this, the disturbing nature of the setting is lessened and the book becomes more readable and manageable as a result. The horrific nature of the book is less from violence or gore but more from the complexity of Jack’s thoughts, as he struggles with both hating and loving the only life he has ever known. That’s where Old Nick’s depravity really becomes clear, as the true extent of Jack’s naivety about the world is uncovered.

I do wish that I had more of a chance to read about Old Nick. I understand why he wasn’t featured as the book truly is through Jack’s eyes. Old Nick is like a boogeyman to Jack so until the fear sets in, he isn’t often a thought to the boy. But I did enjoy the glimpses of him I caught and I’d be very intrigued to see an additional book published from his point-of-view.

At times I did feel limited by having the book only from Jack’s perspective. While this was fine when the world was only in the Room, this became sometimes frustrating when Outside was explored. I would have preferred if the perspective had shifted to Ma when this transition was made, as by halfway I was craving more detail and depth.

I think this is an important read. At times I was keenly aware of how poorly the media and public deals with the victims of these traumatic experiences. The privacy and rehabilitation they needed were constantly being overwhelmed by prying eyes and a constant need for information. This made me reflect past the pages of the book and solidified my thoughts on the value of space and serenity. In many ways, I’ve withdrawn from the information overload of present day. My Facebook remains unopened for days and sometimes weeks and my interests lean once more towards books. It’s easy to shrug off the actions of paparazzi as being silly but sometimes it’s important to remember that real people are at the other end of those lenses. People who didn’t choose acting or modeling and never wanted to be famous. My favorite example of information overload would be with the Making a Murderer series, which has become world famous and thrust the individuals into global recognition. In some cases, more information is better, for there are some instances of corrupti0n or mishandling where the result benefits from public awareness. But that isn’t always the case and often times I’m keenly aware of the powerful sway of public opinion. Of what limits the law and morals can sometimes bend to keep readers happy.

The ending is also kept very mysterious and to me this feels like an ironic way of keeping us in the dark when so many other parts of their captivity was exposed. While this can be frustrating, it does let me use my imagination and construct the ending that I want them to have. While information, facts and realities are often important, sometimes we need some open ends to fill up on our own.

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on modern media. Do you think we recieve too much or too little information? Do you think images should be included in newspapers at all? Tell me your thoughts, I am keen to hear them!

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5 thoughts on “Room – Emma Donoghue

  1. I feel that the media covers things with a certain bias depending on who is reporting. I can understand both sides of wanting to know more information as well as wanting to give people their privacy. There is often the desire to sensationalise aspects of stories. One example that comes to mind is the German film “The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum” which can show the effect the media can have when things get out of hand.

      1. It follows the story of katharina who is a housekeeper who’s life is destroyed by tabloid journalism as she is investigated for having potential ties to Red Army Faction terrorists.

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