Sunday, June 5, 2011

Room by Emma Donohue

The story of a mother, her son, a locked room and the outside world
Jack is five and, like any little boy, excited at the prospect of presents and cake. He's looking forward to telling his friends it's his birthday, too. But although Jack is a normal child in many ways – loving, funny, bright, full of energy and questions – his upbringing is far from ordinary: Jack's entire life has been spent in a single room that measures just 12 feet by 12 feet; as far as he's concerned, Room is the entire world.
He shares this world with his mother, with Plant, and tiny Mouse (though Ma isn't a fan and throws a book at Mouse when she sees him). There's TV too, of course – and the cartoon characters he thinks of as his friends – but Jack knows that nothing else he sees on the screen is real. Old Nick, on the other hand, is all too real, but only visits at night – like a bat – when Jack is meant to be asleep and hidden safely in Wardrobe. And only Old Nick has the code to Door, which is otherwise locked...
Told in Jack's voice, Room is the story of a mother's love for her son, and of a young boy's innocence (from publisher's site).

Have you guys heard of ROOM? It has such a hauntingly gorgeous evocative cover and has won so many awards since it's August 2010 release.

The premise of Room is simple:

ROOM is the story of a five-year-old called Jack, who lives in a single room with his Ma and has never been outside. When he turns five, he starts to ask questions, and his mother reveals to him that there is a world outside. Told entirely in Jack’s voice, ROOM is no horror story or tearjerker, but a celebration of resilience and the love between parent and child. (from author's site)

 ~ and while the premise may be nothing entirely new, I can honestly say I have never read another book like it.(Read the first chapter @ Amazon for a taste of the prose).

With the book being told from Jack's five-year old POV it puts a whole new slant on the tale ~ while the subject matter may imply it's a suspense thriller, it doesn't read like it at all. There are undertones of the horror of the situation (that we, as readers, bring to the book, reading between the lines) but as Jack narrates the book has an almost fairytale, other-worldly quality to it. (his universe is the room ~ and simple objects become proper nouns, Door, Bed, Fork, etc, are like characters in the story) His Room is an adventure to him ~ his days fascinating one day after another, he's ignorant that he is a captive. It's a conceptually bold idea and makes for utterly compelling reading.

Jack's a funny kid. He's like this odd cross between an alien visitor, regular boy-child and mini Dalai Lama with a wise old soul, haha.

It took me a few pages to adjust to the narration and slip into the rhythm of the story ~ but once I did I was hooked and found ROOM to be two-am-in-the-morning-unputdownable. Even where it occasionally lulled in the pacing/suspense I was so hooked I wanted to see what was going to happen.

ROOM is a perfect book for a book club. It's unique, additive and oh-my-gosh psychologically head-spin-ny. Plot-wise I don't want to give anything away but it's a little bit The Jungle Book-esque. (and I love the psychological exploration)

I wish I had read this with my book club because I have an overflowing head full of stuff to discuss. I am torn about this book.

It is one of the most compelling, fascinating and unique books I have read. I gulped it up and was completely absorbed. I'm glad I read it and it was a startling and absorbing reading experience


I was left buzzing with points of discussion.

A little miffed and incredulous at the mid-point deus ex-machina (!).

I thought the second half was equally compelling and frustrating. I loved the themes in the second half but felt they were occasionally too obvious (as if the author had fallen a bit out of the story and into showcasing some thoughts on modern society/the human condition). In parts it felt rushed and Jack's POV overly wise and insightful.

The two halves of the book were distinctly different and I'm not sure how well they meshed together? It made me feel a touch dizzy, somehow.

 I loved reading ABOUT the characters but I am not sure I really CARED for them (although ~ it makes me think, do I need to care about characters to enjoy a book? Evidently not as I did fly turbo-charged through ROOM).

The ending niggled at me (as in, what ending (!?) it kind of petered out...). I'm a little unsure why Jack had such a funky dialect? ~ all twisty grammar (which I did enjoy to read ~ very cute and had a perfect kind of literary rhythm). But why did he talk like that? O.o

And I could have a good long chat with you over a hot chocolate about a dozen things that got me scratching my head/pondering life kind of stuff ~ but I won't for spoilers...


It was a wild, utterly unique reading experience. I loved reading it. I got all hot and bothered by it. And am insanely impressed at how brave this book is. It's really something different and no wonder it has people buzzing and it's being nominated for all kinds of prestigious awards.

Recommended:If you're looking for something creative and original, something to captivate you, make you think and a story to become absorbed in CHECK IT OUT. It's a little different and it may have you bewildered in parts (let me know what you think!) but overall it's an awesome reading experience for all ages, hey.

(If you struggle at the beginning, I recommend giving it 30 pages or so to get used to the narration style ~ after that you'll be hooked and not even notice it. I ended up liking the narration as one of my stand-out fave things about the book :)

Room @ Pan Macmillan
Emma Donohue's website
Room @ goodreads

A few of my favourite international covers:

Have you read Room?
Are you intrigued?
Which cover do you love the most? 
(they are all pretty stand-out-ish)

Thanks to Pan Macmillan Australia for this startling and absorbing review copy

AND thank you all who entered my Elizabeth Scott STEALING HEAVEN giveaway :D
The winner was 


  1. I agree with your thoughts! Thought not the best book out there, Room is one of the hard-hitting books I've read. I struggled with Jack's POV at times too.
    Have you read Slammerkin by the same author? It's even better than Room; I wish it had got as much attention.

  2. Hmmm I'm not sure if I would pick this one up. Seem a bit like a hit or miss. Oh and I like the white cover with the bold colourful writing? Stands out to me the most :)

  3. What a fascinating yet well-balanced review, Nomes.
    I've never read a book with a five year old narrator, that too and adult book, but I've been eying this for a while.
    Never been able to make time for it, but now that you mention it...

  4. Hi Naomi!

    I've nominated you for an award! I know your an established blogger and its cool if you don't do the award thing but if you're interested click Here

  5. It sound interesting, and I've actually seen this book around, but I don't known if I could read this.

    Love your review, though, it covered all the points :D

  6. My favorite cover is the bottom right one (which I think is american?). ALthough I do favor the spanish one... but I'm a little bias since I AM spanish ;)

    I HAVE heard of ROOM before. I haven't looked up anymore info on it but I have a feeling that it's party inspired of a true story where this young girl went missing and YEARS later was found out to have been living in a room under her father's house this entire time with her own children. *shudders* extremely scary stuff.

    But enough of my babbling. Thank you for the insightful review, Nomes.

  7. Well, I never heard of it, but I read the Amazon excerpt and I have to say I'm interested now. The beginning was brilliant. On the other hand, I'm leery of novels that change tack midway through...must consider this.


  8. I'd like to read this! I think that my mum actually has a copy of it from her book club :)

  9. I've never heard of this one. It sounds interesting and yet I'm not sure if I could handle reading it. You're a braver soul than I. :)

  10. Hi Nomes,

    Thank you so much! I'm so excited to see what happens!
    I'll absolutely post as soon as I know! Thank you!

  11. Great review Nomes. I not sure this is a me book even though I love unique stories. But it does sound like a great pick for a bookclub. Could you imagine the bookers with it? They would have a field day.

    And the main cover you featured is my favourite :)

  12. I adored this book, it is one of those brilliant books that reminds me why I love reading. I thought she actually did a great job narrating a 5 year old's voice and thoughts, she used a lot of typical grammatical errors, over-extensions and under-extensions etc. But then I've read many other reviews like yours that didn't quite buy it, so you're not alone in that! I guess I liked that it focused so much on their psychological processes rather than plot so much - my kind of story :-)

  13. It took a while for the impact of this book to hit me but I LOVED it!

  14. I saw Emma Donohue talk about and read from ROOM last year. She's very engaging and interesting and the book sounded incredibly unique. . .but just not quite my thing. You're review has swayed me, but time is so short and there are so many books I desperately want to read. I'll keep it on the TBR list :)

  15. I picked this one up after seeing some great reviews but I just havent got around to reading it. Really need to do something about that lol

  16. I've been curious about this one. Now you've got me wondering about what exactly the deus ex-machina is that changes the second half so dramatically. Hmm, not sure if it's enough to make me pick it up now but maybe later. Thanks for the great review as always. :)

    And congrats to my good buddy Michelle!

  17. Oh, and I'm still a fan of the US cover. Love the simplicity and I'm a sucker for white. Though all the covers you posted are lovely - I'm surprised.


Thanks for the commenty love :)