When there is a lot of hype around a book, I tend to shy away from it. Same with the books that end up shortlisted for the big awards. I assume that they will never live up to my expectations or that they will be too highbrow for me to really enjoy them.
That’s what I tell myself when I miss out on books like Emma Donoghue’s Room.
Am I the last one on this bandwagon?
Very possibly. I started reading this in the car on my way to long weekend paradise and was completely antisocial until I finished it the following afternoon. It’s not a difficult read but it is completely astonishing.
I think the reason this book is so unsettling is that it’s happened. We’ve seen real life footage of old men keeping young women in their backyards or their basements, for sexual gratification. These men have fathered children and these girls, these young women then have to care for them and love them, despite the circumstances of their lives and their beginnings.
Since I’m so clearly the last one to read it, I don’t feel bad being more than usually explicit about the contents of the book. If you haven’t read it yet, it’s out in pocket paperback now so you have no excuse.
Room is split into sections: Presents, Unlying, Dying, After and Living. The first parts take you inside Room, where Jack and his Ma are ekeing out an existence around presents, the first day of the month marked with a balloon, sundaytreats, and normal activities like chores and bathing and gym. Jack’s friends include Dora the Explorer and Rug. He longs for a dog called Lucky and sleeps in a wardrobe. But this is normal for him. He believes that there is Room and then there is all the things that he sees on TV that is make believe.
Eventually his mother starts telling him the truth. That nearly everything he sees on TV is real, on the Outside. And that’s when they come up with a plan to get out.
Reading through the execution of the plan is heart stopping. And then they are outside and now what? Now they have to learn how to cope on the outside. How to handle the relationships with people that for Jack’s Ma have been on hold for seven long years. For Jack, he’s only ever had his mother to talk to. He even has to wear special sunglasses inside because his body is so unused to any natural light.
It’s an incredible book. It makes you think about what you would do in that situation. How would you handle yourself? Could you?
No one could come out of that Room unscathed. Jack is young but through his eyes you see what a scary place the world can be.
When I first started reading and saw that objects like the rug and bed were capitalized I almost despaired of the whole thing. But then I realized that they are capitalized because for Jack, Rug and Bed aren’t just things, they are friends and they hold huge importance in his life.
Room is terrific and if I’m not the very last person to read this, then what are you waiting for, go read it!