Book Review: Room by Emma Donaghue

I liked this book because it is written from the perspective of a five year old, and I therefore think that myself and the narrator have a similar mental capacity. Like the main character, Jack, I am also highly intelligent but have spent way too much of my life in a confined space, practically alone, to understand typical social conventions. This makes me extremely socially awkward. Unfortunately, because in most parts of the world I am considered an ‘adult’ this makes it extra difficult for me. I am also similar to Jack in that I like to personify everything I come into contact with on a regular basis as it makes me feel as if I have friends. Which I don’t.

Some serious thoughts about the book:

I’ve seen some very mixed reviews about this book, and the negative seem to focus mainly on the narration being ‘unrealistic’. Many reviews suggest that having Ma as the narrator would be more engaging. I do not agree. The personification of everyday things is a very realistic language device for a 5 year old narrator – as a much older sibling to a 6 year old boy, I can clearly remember the language he used at that age. It is not unrealistic for a child to speak in infantile language and then on occasion, come out with a very mature sentence or phrase – this often leads to hilarious and interesting conversations over the dinner table. I challenge that these people are not communicating deeply enough with the 5 year olds they come into contact with.

My thoughts on this book is that it is not so much about feeling empathy for the characters and getting lost in the sorrow of their situation, but rather the moral issues, and the questioning of whether Ma did the right thing for Jack in escaping. It is intriguing to think of someone growing up in such a restricted environment, but being perfectly happy, as happy as any 5 year old, with the satisfaction that his world is the only world that exists.

There’s also the moral aspect of lying to children. Might Jack have been better prepared for the outside world if he had initially been taught that there was a world outside Room? Might the transition have been easier to handle? And then on the other hand, one has to question whether that knowledge would have had a severely detrimental effect on his overall happiness, had their escape plan failed. Jack would have had to live for perhaps years knowing that there was a world in which he could not participate.

I bet you didn’t realise that I could write cohesive sentences linked up to make clear, understandable paragraphs, did you?

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