Have you ever bought a book without any idea what it’s about, and then found it to be one of the best books you’ve read in a long time?
When I was 21, I bought ‘Four Mothers’, by Shifra Horn. I’d never heard of her, or the book, but on a whim decided to try something different. Best decision I could have made – I loved the book, and went on to seek out more of her work.
This was also the case with Emma Donaghue’s ‘Room’, which I have just finished. I started it in the hospital after Pickle was born, then set it aside at home because I was trying to finish ‘The Gormenghast Trilogy’. I picked it up again last week, and as I got further and further into the story, I found I couldn’t put it down.
The blurb on the back says:
“Jack is five. He lives in a single, locked room with his Ma.”
That’s it. That’s all I had to go on. That, and it being shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2010. I decided to take the risk, and give it a go, and in the end, I’m bloody glad I did.
The story is narrated by Jack, who has just turned five. He lives in Room, with Ma, and Plant. Every night, he goes to sleep in Wardrobe, and after Ma’s nightly visit from Old Nick, he joins her in Bed. He’s an exceptional speller and enjoys daily Phys Ed; his best friend is Dora, and he believes that everything on TV is pretend.
One day, he sees an advertisement for [pain]Killers, and tells Ma that it’s the same as their Killers. She insists that it isn’t, but slowly begins to explain their situation in a way a five-year-old can understand.
As the story unfolds, it becomes compulsive reading – their escape from Room occurs halfway through, and initially, I was left wondering what the the rest of the story could be about. All I’ll say is that the second half is set in Outside Space (the world outside Room), and is just as compelling.
‘Room’ is a well-written, intriguing story; a five-year-old’s point-of-view makes the uncomfortable subject matter (kidnap, rape, stillbirth, extended breastfeeding, suicide, rejection, psychological adjustment…) easier to read.
Highly recommend this book – persevere through the slow start and you’ll be rewarded.
I’ve just re-started ‘The Once and Future King’, by T. H. White. I set it aside to finish ‘Room’, and because I was finding it a bit of a struggle, but I’ve started to enjoy it more now that things are starting to happen.
It’s very descriptive, and I have found myself skimming over some parts, but as the action picks up, I’m hoping it will get better.