Review: Room by Emma Donoghue

To five-year-old-Jack, Room is the world….

It’s where he was born, it’s where he and his Ma eat and sleep and play and learn. There are endless wonders that let loose Jack’s imagination-the snake under Bed that he constructs out of eggshells, the imaginary world projected through the TV, the coziness of Wardrobe beneath Ma’s clothes, where she tucks him in safely at night, in case Old Nick comes.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it’s the prison where she’s been held since she was nineteen-for seven long years. Through her fierce love for her son, she has created a life for him in that eleven-by-eleven-foot space. But Jack’s curiosity is building alongside her own desperation—and she knows that Room cannot contain either indefinitely….


Room is one of those books I’ve seen mentioned around the blogosphere of an amount that creates curiosity in me, especially when it has been getting such high ratings. What was so good about it? Why are all these people talking about it? With the help of my curiosity getting too much of me, and as it’s a book club choice, I was finally able to read it and find out.

I’ve come across stories told from the perspective of a child narrator before, but not written in the way Room is. Usually the writing style is what you’d expect from an adult writing a story, whereas with Room grammar is on the haphazard side, spelling hasn’t been tampered with, but the language is different because of how Jack sees everything. Donoghue has utilised the unique way children can see the world, the names they come up with for objects, their innocence and naiveté, and it’s easy to believe the protagonist is five years old.

The story is told by someone who has always been confined to the one room and his mother has skewed the truth to help make Room his only reality. At times reading it, I found myself questioning an adult doing that to a child and warping their perception, but what would you do if you were imprisoned in a room and didn’t know if you’d ever get out again? The character Ma mentions at one point, about dangling that piece of unattainable carrot, is it really fair to do so? This is one of the reasons I enjoyed reading Room because to me it addresses issues of mental conditioning, how much someone can be influenced by their environment, and also how easy it can be to manipulate someone’s ideas of reality.

The writing style does take a time to get used to, and I felt it was slow in the beginning, but at the same time it was too fascinating to stop reading because of the story being told from Jack’s perspective. I wasn’t so much interested in what was happening with Ma, as I was in finding out how Jack would cope, how he would adapt, and how he would survive.

I found Room to be an emotional read as well, but not how I was expecting. This is a part where I can’t avoid spoilers so…

Spoiler Alert

The whole time they were in Room I didn’t feel anything apart from fascination of the above mentioned and enjoying Jack’s character, but when they were out of it and attempting to adapt, that was when I felt emotional. I think by that point it was hard not to imagine a small child experiencing something like this and emotion was more tied to Jack being able to adapt, but also his struggle with being taken away from Room.

One more spoiler – I did not like the Grandmother at all. I’m sure it would be frustrating at times to have to deal with someone who has never been outside of the prison they were born in, but did she really have to roll her eyes at him all the time? She doesn’t take precautions and gets irritable when he doesn’t adapt straight away. Could she be more condescending? The majority of adults outside of Room came across as too impatient, bordering on irresponsible, and downright stupid with certain scenarios.

End of Spoiler

I believe Room has garnered as much of its popularity as it has because of the narrator’s age and I don’t know if it would have been as good if told by an older narrator, but I still appreciate the use of language and the ability to create a story showing the innocence, humour, and precociousness of the character that is Jack, while having a dark setting.

  • Genre: Mystery-General Fiction
  • Demographic: Older YA and Up
  • Rating Out of Five: 4*
  • Format: eBook
  • Find At: Book Depository
  • Published: 2011

3 thoughts on “Review: Room by Emma Donoghue

  1. […] Room by Emma Donoghue – This is one that got a around a lot in the blogosphere and it’s also one of the books I’ve actually read recently thanks to my book club! Sometimes I’m wary of reading a book that has been popular or mentioned a lot on other blogs, but I wasn’t disappointed. I wasn’t completely in love with Room, but it’s still a pretty good read. Room is about a woman and her son who are kept imprisoned for several years and it’s all told from the perspective of the five year old son. […]


  2. Room is one of those books that is disturbing and yet compelling. Jack’s perspective is what makes the story and I believe “Ma” did the best she could under the circumstances. Considering how imprisonment at the age of 19 when your whole world is just opening up to you and you are planning your future, must have devastating psychological effects. I admired her “schooling” of Jack and her attempts to protect him were not unreasonable under those circumstances. The grandmother was a flawed character but I can understand her perspective though I would have liked to have seen more patience in how she helped to integrate Jack into another reality. All in all, I am glad to have read it for the perspectives it gave me.


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