To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it’s where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.
Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it’s not enough…not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son’s bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work.
Room is a harrowing heart-breaking read which made me feel all kind of emotions. It is a powerful, poignant story which demands to be read. As always with these novels which turn into a massive success I am sceptical because I am fearful that the novel would be a disappointment but Room is the complete opposite of this and a delightful but an extremely harrowing read! In case you do not know about the premise of this novel then I will enlighten you here!
Jack lives with his Ma in Room, a secured single-room containing a small kitchen, a bathtub, a wardrobe, a bed, and a TV set. Because Room is all Jack has ever known as he was born in it, he believes that only Room and the things inside of it -including himself and Ma- exist. Ma, unwilling to disappoint Jack with a life she cannot give him, allows Jack to believe that the rest of the world only exists on television. Ma at the same time tries her best to keep Jack healthy and happy via both physical and mental exercises which includes her limiting Jacks TV-watching time, keeping a healthy diet and having great oral hygiene. The only person Jack has seen from the outside world (which he doesn’t believe exist) is ‘Old Nick’ who visits Room at night while Jack sleeps hidden in a wardrobe. Old Nick brings them food and necessities but Jack is unaware that Old Nick kidnapped Ma when she was 19 years old and has kept her imprisoned for the past seven years. Old Nick sadly regularly rapes Ma; and Jack is the product of one such sexual assault. This next paragraph contains spoilers so if you do not want to be spoiled then skip to the spoiler free section which will be highlighted!
Spoiler – A week after Jack’s fifth birthday, Ma learns Old Nick has been unemployed for the past six months and is in danger of losing his home. Feeling certain that Old Nick would kill them both before letting them free, Ma comes up with a plan to get Jack out of Room by convincing Old Nick that Jack is deathly ill. Jack is unable to conceptualise being outside of Room or interacting with other people, but Ma eventually convinces him to help her. When Old Nick refuses to take Jack to a hospital, Ma then pretends that Jack has died so Old Nick then removes Jack, wrapped in a rug, from Room. Jack escapes Old Nick and manages to reach a friendly stranger who contacts the police. In spite of his inability to communicate effectively, Jack directs the police to Room to free Ma.
Spoiler – After Jack and Ma are reunited they are taken to a mental hospital where they receive medical evaluations and temporary housing. In the meantime Old Nick is found and faces numerous charges of abduction, rape, and child endangerment that will likely lead to 25 years to life in prison. While in the hospital, Ma is reunited with her family and begins to relearn how to interact with the larger world, while Jack, overwhelmed by new experiences and people, wants only to return to the safety of Room. Meanwhile, the case has attracted much attention from the public and the mass media making it even harder for Jack and Ma to start leading a normal life – At this point I should say that although the media are great for some things I think it is disgusting when they become vultures and prey on victims in these kind of cases. I understand that there is demand for the story but some of the ways in which photos and facts are collected is horrible and shameful – After this point Ma is persuaded to do a television interview but it ends very badly and Ma suffers a mental breakdown and attempts suicide. While Ma is in hospital recovering and receiving therapy, Jack lives with his grandmother and her new partner. Without the security of his mother nearby Jack becomes even more confused and frustrated by his surroundings, including his new extended family, who, while kind and loving, often do not understand how Jack’s limited experience – particularly his concept of personal boundaries – impact his behaviour.
Spoiler – Soon Ma recovers and her and Jack move into an independent living residence where they begin to make plans for the future. Ma’s growing independence conflicts with Jack’s desire to keep her for himself, just as they used to be. At the same time, Jack himself is growing and changing as his world expands. Finally, Jack requests to visit Room. He and Ma return to the scene of their captivity but wonderfully Jack no longer feels any emotional attachment toward it and is able to say his goodbyes before he and Ma leave Room for the final time. Spoiler Free.
That was a very long synopsis, I got carried away a bit but I just wanted to let all of you lovely readers know the premise of the novel in case you didn’t already! As I said at the beginning of my review this is a very harrowing and heart-breaking story and it will definitely make you cry, especially if you are a mother or even father! It is heartbreaking for me to read about this woman who was kidnapped but also to read about a boy who has never experienced the outside world and who has been raised in poor conditions. The saddest part about this is that Ma couldn’t help the circumstances Jack had been raised in and it is so tragically sad.
I really admire Donoghue for making this a survivors story and not a captors story. It could have easily become a horror show about what Nick does to Ma and all about his life but I really loved how this was not his story but Jacks and Ma’s so for that I really appreciate this woman and her wonderful thinking! Donoghue’s inspiration for this novel was “The shock of motherhood” which she said in an interview. She elaborated further saying “Back in 2008 when I heard about Elizabeth Fritzl and her children emerging from their Austrian dungeon, our kids were four and one. My first thought was: how did she do that, how did she manage to mother – and mother well – in a locked room? But my second thought was: aren’t there moments for every parent, and every child too, when that intimate bond feels like a locked room?”. In my opinion this is an incredible observation on her behalf but also a real thought provoking one. To take real life inspiration from the case of Elizabeth Fritzl and apply it to her work is incredible and she deserves so much praise for this.
You have to appreciate the sheer amount of work and research that Donoghue put into this novel. The mechanics of Room, the psychological and physical results of being raised in an environment like that, and the long-term effects are all explored in sensitive and thorough detail. The Child Psychology alone in this novel is impeccable and very important. I think it is extremely important as a reader to know about these heinous acts which happen in the world and the effects that has on a person.
The writing and narration of this novel can be a little painful sometimes as it is narrated by 5 year old Jack. However the more I read it the more you come accustomed to it so in the end it really is not all that bad! Donoghue’s writing in general is very poignant and powerful. Her words are full of heart and emotion and if you read this novel and do not cry I would be surprised! Her ability to transport us to this world was incredible and almost magical because I was completely lost in this book and fully immersed. I felt as if I was in the dingy, horrible Room, and for that I take my hat off to Donoghue because it is extremely hard to write a novel in which the majority of it is set in a room, without it becoming a lacklustre read!
To summarise my thoughts Room is a roller coaster journey and a compelling, harrowing, heartbreaking but also an inspiring read full of two wonderful enchanting characters. I adored this novel and everything about it, well, besides Nick! As I mention Nick I have to say that the only fault I found with this story was that we did not know much about him but this is what Donoghue intended and this was never Nicks story but rather a survivor story of a mother and her son. This incredible, touching novel gets Four Stars from me!
Thank you so much as ever for reading book lovers! I appreciate it so much. Let me know all of your thoughts on Room I would love to know! Have you read the book? Do you want to read the book? Also have you seen the movie and if so did you love it or loathe it. Let me know below lovely readers! Thank you so much again!
P.S. Below is a preview of the book for you to read and if you want to buy the novel their is a buy me button which will take you straight to Amazon U.K. and if you are international then have a look at the Book Depository link!
Goodbye for now book lovers,
*Update – As always with books adapted into a movie I love to express my thoughts! Personally I thought this movie was incredible and very true of the novel. The story and casting was amazing and I was so happy when Brie Larsson who plays Ma won best actress at the Oscars! A superb movie and I enjoyed it thoroughly! Let me know below whether you loved the movie too! Thanks again for reading book lovers!