There was a lot of hype about this book, so I was quite curious when I picked it up a few days ago. I finished it in three days (that's also while writing a never-ending dissertation and having the Better Half over for the weekend). When I read the reviews, there were a lot of adjectives used to describe it, but I found that only one can really characterize it aptly enough; it's unquestionably one of the most unique books I've read in a very long time.
The story is about a five-year-old, Jack, and his young mother (whose name is never mentioned) who are captives of a middle-aged man, who kidnapped the young woman (aged 19 at the time), and put her in a modern-day cell like a modern-day sex slave. There, the woman had Jack (on her own), and lived with him for the next five years. Jack, knowing only the inside of Room, believes that it constitutes the whole world, and his mother, despite the limited affordances within Room, tries to provide for her son the most normal life possible, through a healthy diet, limited TV time, strict oral hygiene, reading children's books and physical exercises. Nevertheless, when the mother finds out that Old Nick (that's the pervert who kidnapped her) loses his job and when he cuts the power at the Room for several days, she decides that it is too dangerous to keep living there and decides to escape.
But then, little did she know, another series of ordeals begins.
The story is told from the perspective of young Jack, making it even more honest and sensitive in all its simplicity. I said the novel is unique. It is. It's devastating and uplifting, simple and complicated, sad and inspiring, all at the same time.
Very highly recommended. And if you don't believe me, then you can believe all these people who awarded Emma Donoghue for Room:
- New York Times bestseller (Fiction, 2010)
- Booker Prize, shortlist (2010)
- Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize (2010)
- Indigo Books Heather's Pick (2010)
- New York Times Best Books of the Year (2010)
- New York Times Notable Book of the Year (Fiction & Poetry, 2010)
- Salon Book Award (Fiction, 2010)
- Governor General's Awards, shortlist (2010)
- Alex Award (2011)
- Publisher's Weekly Listen Up Award (Audio Book of the Year, 2010)
- ALA Notable Book (2011)
- Hughes & Hughes Irish Novel of the Year, Irish Book Awards (2010)
- Commonwealth Writers' Prize (Canada and the Caribbean, 2011)
- Indies Choice Book Award (Adult Fiction, 2011)
- Orange Prize, shortlist (2011)
- WH Smith Paperback of the Year, Galaxy National Book Awards (2011)
PS: Here you can get a feel of what Room is like, according to Donoghue.
PS2: The story is said to be inspired by the Fritzl case in Austria, where Joseph Fritzl imprisoned his daughter Elisabeth in the family home's cellar for 24 years, repeatedly abusing her physically and sexually. This resulted to 24 years of slavery, 7 offsprings and 1 miscarriage.