Our Book Review:
Every now and again terrifyingly horrific stories of kidnapping, captivity, rape and abuse come to light; significant victims such as Elisabeth Fritzl, Natascha Kampusch and Jaycee Lee Dugard spent between 8 and 24 years locked in tiny rooms, isolated from the world. Fritzl and Dugard bared children with their captors, and for some, the rooms were all they knew. Room is a fictional story, undoubtedly inspired by the above cases, told in the perspective of a five year old boy born in captivity.
The most significant aspect of the book is that it completely captures the boy’s mind-set, and is written how a five year old would speak. For some this may become tedious, but it is a decision that ultimately sets it apart from other stories involving human captivity, the media reports and documentaries. It is easy for us to identify with the young men and women kidnapped, taken from their normal lives and forced to live in isolation and subjected to regular abuse, but how can we understand the thoughts and feelings of a child born in a room, watching the world through a television? Emma Donoghue puts readers into the head of a boy whose life consists of breast feeding, counting cereal, reading the same five books and planning for ‘Sunday treat’, and it is a factor which makes Room an utterly fascinating and interesting story.
Jack and his Ma live in an 11ft squared shed at the back of Old Nick’s garden; it consists of a skylight and basic bathroom and kitchen facilities. Jack believes that everything he sees on TV isn’t real, for him, only Room is; grass, rain, fresh air, hospitals and other people are ‘television’. Room vividly depicts the pair’s living arrangements, from the sound-proof cork walls to the bloody carpet on which Jack was born, and it effectively depicts their day-to-day lives without becoming repetitive and monotonous. It delivers insight into the intimate conditions of the captured, and provides the details omitted from the reports of real life cases, and thus is it a riveting and intriguing account that satisfies the curiosities which naturally emerge from these cases.
Ultimately, Room is a devastating, but charming tale of the bond between mother and son, instead of making the story a “freak show”, Donoghue prioritises character development and relationships; Ma’s love for Jack is endless and unconditional and Ma is Jack’s everything.