Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Emma Donoghue's Room

Short-listed for 2010’s Booker prize, and rightly so, Emma Donoghue’s Room is Culturine’s book of the year. From the moment your eyes focus on the first word you become consumed by the room itself and develop a close relationship with the central character and first-person narrator. Perhaps it is because I am the father of a four year old boy, that I developed a strong, emotional bond with Jack, aged five.

Narrated in the present tense, the book begins with Jack and his mother celebrating his fifth birthday in the 11ft by 11ft room in which he was born on 'Rug’ and has never been on the other side of 'Door'. Jack sleeps in ‘Wardrobe’ and there is ‘Skylight’ and ‘Television’, in which of all of Jack’s friends and a fantasy existence are imprisoned.

Jack has no concept of diversity due to his confinement and in her literary genius, Donoghue employs a distinct lack of plurals in the narrative, as a means of emphasising the impact of incarceration on Jack’s being. The author is renowned for taking true stories and turning them into works of fiction. It is obvious then, that this story was inspired by the Fritzl case but it is by no means exploited. A prior knowledge of this influence only adds to the overwhelming sense of claustrophobia that consumes you wholly and generates feelings of anxiety, dread and suspense like you have never felt before.

I had no preconceptions of the book and that is the best way to read it. The slightest spoiler would have a detrimental impact on the reader’s emotional journey so I will avoid revealing any more details of the plot. I would also strongly advise that if you are going to buy the book, do not read any other reviews as some of them divulge too much information. What I will say though, is that the book, from the outside, could be looked upon as a sensationalised fictional account of a true crime but it has so much more to offer than your average childhood misery memoir. Donoghue delves deep investigating themes such as the futile implication of social conventions, grief, isolation, sociopathic tendencies and sensory depravation, all from the unique and believable perspective of a child.

Jack is so beautifully conceived that when you finish the book you will continue to spare a thought for him in his alternate existence every single day. As disturbing as the subject matter may outwardly appear, this is not a depressing book, quite the opposite in fact. It is the most thrilling, utterly compelling and intensely affective novel you will read this year. Once you enter Room, it will never let you go.

Click Here to buy Room.

Click Here to visit Emma Donoghue's official site

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