Room – Book Review

If you browse bookstores, check the best-seller lists or read about literary awards you already know that London-based novelist Emma Donoghue has won the Rogers’ Writers Trust Fiction Prize here in Canada and a major literary award in her native Ireland.  She missed out on the Man Booker Prize but her latest novel, Room, is the third best-selling book in Canada right now. 

“I was driving along when “Room” came to me in a flash”, she said.  A flash of brilliance, I’d say.  It’s the account of the unusual and frightening lives of a Mother and child, told from the five-year-old boy’s point of view.   Do you remember the Oscar winning movie, Life is Beautiful, in which the father used humor to protect his son from the horrors of a Nazi death camp?  In Room, Ma shows that kind of deep love and unselfishness, too.

I don’t want to tell you about the circumstances of their lives.  If you really want to know, there are scads of details about this book elsewhere on the web.  I’d like readers to have the experience of discovery that I enjoyed by cracking the spine without knowing its plot. 

The child, Jack, has his own little-boy way of describing his world, of talking and of thinking about his surroundings.  He’s at once endearing, heroic and ultimately just a little boy.  It’s remarkable the way Donoghue has captured the workings of a child’s mind.  It seems effortless which is undoubtedly the result of a lot of effort. For the first few dozen pages I was a bit bewildered by the style of Room, teetering on the verge of deciding whether I was reading something terribly pretentious and precious or a new type of writing style that would captivate me; turned out it was the latter.  By the time I got one-third of the way into Room I couldn’t put it down. 

Donoghue is a friend of a friend and her (former?) day job is here at London’s UWO.  Room is an excellent and complex story terrifically told.  Hint: Buy it at Costco for a fraction of the cover price and if you’re lucky, like me, you’ll get a copy that’s signed by the author!