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Wednesday, 16 March 2011

A little while ago I finished a book on my reading list: 'Room' by Emma Donoghue.
It was longlisted for the 2010 Booker Prize, and having read it I completely understand why it deserved its place there. I haven't read the other books on the list yet so as of yet I have nothing to compare it to, so it will be interesting to see how it fares against the other (inevitably very different) novels.

Initially, I found the narrative style exceedingly irritating, most probably because it is not the kind that novels are often written in. Many are written from a child's perspective such as Jack's, but few retain the actual language and grammar of a child so accurately. Once I began to understand the story, the style became an integral part of the novel, exploring the imagination and reasoning of a child in a way that was both gripping and endearing.
The novel's concept is easy to pick up on immediately, but the way Donoghue shows the reader a child's playfulness and naivety, as well as a grown woman's struggle to bring up her son in the prison he believes to be the whole world. Jack's character is beautifully illustrated, and he emerges a thoughtful and intelligent five-year old. His outbursts, fears and thought processes are perfectly described as if taken directly from his head; I didn't find this contrived in the slightest, as I thought I might when I read the first few pages.

One aspect of the novel that I found particularly enthralling (though chilling) was the 'games' that Ma and Jack play in Room. They look innocent at first, but their purpose soon becomes very clear to the reader, although it never dawns on Jack. I liked the extra care taken with the layout and separation of the book into parts rather than traditional chapters; I really liked this touch, especially the titling of the parts - they were suitably childish and ambiguous, but became relevant the more you read. I also found the point where the novel ends refreshing, as I was expecting the novel to end with the escape rather than go into detail about their new life in Outside.

I would definitely reccommend this book, it deserves every brilliant review it gets. It completely goes against expectations of a novel on this subject - it could easily be dismissed as a Fritzl dungeon re-hash. Though inherently an awful and frightening topic, the novel is a celebration of humour, childhood, motherhood and imagination, and if nothing else it is a beautiful, page-turning story. If it seems like hard going at first, persevere! It's worth it.
"In the world I notice persons are nearly always stressed and have no time...I don't know how persons with jobs do the jobs and all the living as well...I guess the time gets spread very thin like butter all over the world, the roads and houses and playgrounds and stores, so there's only a little smear of time on each place, then everyone has to hurry on to the next bit."

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