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, beautiful read which made me feel a lot of different emotions; the novel is powerful and poignant… a story that demands to be read. Room is a highly successful novel and with highly praised books such as Room, I am skeptical as I am fearful the read will not be as incredible as everybody is saying it is. However! This is not the case with the wonderful Room; Room is a delightful read, it may be harrowing but it is a wonderful book and I am so pleased I read it. I am sure many of you know the premise of Room but in case you do not then here is a premise of mine!
Room follows Jack, Jack is a young boy that lives with his Ma in Room. Room is a single room, a secured unit that contains a very small kitchen, a bathtub, a wardrobe, a bed and a TV set. Jack has only ever known Room, he was born in it and he believes that Room, the things it contains and his Ma are the only things that exist. Ma is a mother that did not want to disappoint her son so she allowed Jack to believe that the rest of the world only exists on television and it is something Ma struggles with daily. Ma, however, is a wonderful mother and she tries her best to keep Jack healthy and fit, both by mental and physical exercises as well as good hygiene and as good as a diet she can give him.
Jack has only ever seen one other person than his mum and this is ‘Old Nick’, Old Nick visits Room at night time whilst young Jack sleeps in a wardrobe, hidden as much as he can be. Old Nick brings food and necessities to the room but poor young Jack is unaware that Old Nick kidnapped Ma when she was nineteen years old and he has kept her imprisoned for the past seven years. Old Nick sadly regularly rapes Ma each night 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 conceptualize 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 kinds of cases. I understand that there is demand for the story but some of the ways in which photos and facts are collected are 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 behavior.
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 there but I just wanted to let all of you lovely readers know the premise of the novel in case you didn’t already know! As I said at the beginning of my review this is a very harrowing and heartbreaking story and it will definitely make you cry, especially if you are a mother or even a 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.
Emma Donoghue the author of the novel is an exceptional writer and I admire her for making Room a survivor story as opposed to a captors story. Room could have been a horror show all about what Old Nick had done to Ma and all about his life but thankfully it was not… it was not his story, it was Jack and Ma’s story so for that I really appreciate Donoghue for this. Donoghue’s inspiration for Room 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 Donoghue has 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 they have on a person.
The writing and narration of this novel can be a little painful at times as it is narrated by 5-year-old Jack. However the more I read the novel the more you become 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 the reader into the novel is 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 lackluster read!
To summarise my thoughts, Room is a roller coaster journey and a compelling, harrowing, heartbreaking read but also an inspiring read full of two wonderful enchanting characters. I adored this novel and everything about it, well, besides Nick! 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!
Goodbye for now book lovers,
P.S. Below is a preview of the book for you to read and if you want to buy the novel there 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!
*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 were amazing and I was so happy when Brie Larsson who plays Ma won the best actress at the Oscars! A superb movie and I enjoyed it thoroughly! Let me know whether you loved the movie too! Thanks again for reading book lovers!