Locked in “Room” by Emma Donoghue

“Room” by Emma Donoghue (2010) – 321 pages

 Irish writer Emma Donoghue must have spent many long hours listening to a five year old, because she gets the voice of Jack, the narrator of her novel “Room”, exactly right.  As parents know, there is a huge difference between how a four year old speaks and how a five year old speaks, between how a five year old speaks and how a six year old speaks.  If Jack did not sound right for his age in even one of his sentences, the novel could have been a failure.  Fortunately that does not happen. 

 

I listened to “Room” on audio, and the woman who read for Jack sounded very much like a five year old.  In this case, I think the audio enhanced the experience of the book.

Up until the age of five, children take for granted that their family situation is ‘normal’ no matter what that situation is.  Little children have no real experience of what other families are like.  They are completely dependent on whoever is taking care of them.  One of the beauties of this book is how Jack’s mother is able to provide him with a whole world even though they are locked in this small room. It is an act of love, and at the same time she is saving herself from despair by caring for Jack. 

Donoghue’s description of the room and all their activities in the room is so vivid and real, the room probably became more real for me than my own surroundings.  This is one of the most moving accounts of the bond between mother and child I’ve yet encountered.   The boy Jack, of course, takes all these things for granted, and only we the readers recognize how difficult it is for the mother to provide this whole world for her child under these extreme conditions.

I think “Room” has a better chance to become a classic than just about any other novel published in the last five years.  First the plot is completely original.  Second this novel appeals to both literary readers as well as to the general public.  Literary readers can delight in the perfection of the voice, while the general public will get caught up in this unusual story.  Currently the Minneapolis Public Library has a waiting list of 756 people in line to check out “Room” which is the longest waiting list I’ve seen.

This is not the first Emma Donoghue novel I’ve read.  Her novel “Slammerkin” is also excellent.  “Slammerkin” is an 18th century historical fiction.  I give Donoghue a lot of credit for mixing it up between the historical and the contemporary. 

 “Room” would make a wonderful movie, but I don’t see how they could find a five year old who could  play such a big role and say all the lines.   Somehow I expect Hollywood will figure something out.  Maybe they will get Tom Hanks to play the five year old.

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11 responses to this post.

  1. It’s a wonderful book – my personal best for last year! Glad you liked it!

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  2. Hi Soul Muser,
    Yes, I just re-read your review of “Room”. I suppose by listening to the audiobook, I didn’t deal with words like ROOM and BED and so on in all capitals. I really enjoyed the book in audio.

    http://lifewordsmith.blogspot.com/2010/12/room-emma-donoghue.html

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  3. Posted by Kelly S on January 30, 2011 at 8:08 PM

    This sounds like a wonderful novel — I will have to check it out! Were you able to sidestep the long library wait list by checking out the audio version instead, or did you buy it?

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  4. Hi Kelly,
    Yes I was able to sidestep the long waiting list by getting in line for the audio version. That line was only 6 long and they have 5 audio copies, so I hardly had to wait at all. The audio was great.

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  5. Oh, she’s the author of Slammerkin? You know, I’d never made that connection. Not that I’ve read Slammerkin – I gave it to someone once though and had heard that it was a pretty good book. This book does sound like a must … but, don’t you think it would be best to read it? (Says she provocatively?)

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    • Hi WhisperingGums,
      Read? What’s that? I’ve been having some good luck with audio versions of books lately and do think for “Room” it actually improved the book when you could hear the 5-year old narrator speak. I’m sure it would also be excellent book to read. Now I’m trying to figure out which Donoghue book to read/listen to after “Slammerkin” and “Room”.

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  6. I’ll be interested to hear. I did hear bits of MJ Hyland’s This is how read on the radio recently, and though the narrator was perfect, but that was after I’d read the book. I’m still not 100% convinced about audiobooks though (except that when driving long distances they can be great I know!).

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  7. […] “As parents know, there is a huge difference between how a four year old speaks and how a five year old speaks, between how a five year old speaks and how a six year old speaks. If Jack did not sound right for his age in even one of his sentences, the novel could have been a failure. Fortunately that does not happen.” Tony’s Book World […]

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  8. […] Locked in “Room” by Emma Donoghue « Tony’s Book WorldJan 30, 2011 … “Antigone” by Sophocles, translated by Seamus Heaney » … Donoghue’s description of the room and all their activities in the room is so … […]

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  9. Fatastic book Have just listened to the Audio version. I can not find out who Jack was narrated by?

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    • Hi Patricia,
      I did a little reasearch on this and came up with the following from http://www.symphonyspace.org/live/tbc_room

      “Michal Friedman lives in New York City and keeps her hands in many creative pots. Not only is she an accomplished singer/songwriter performing as “Michal the Girl,” but she also does voiceover work on cartoons, commercials, video games, audiobooks and more. She is the voice of Jack on the audiobook of Room, which has recently been named one of the best ensemble audiobooks of 2010 by Audiofile Magazine.”

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