Tuesday, 16 November 2010
Room by Emma Donoghue
The basic concept I think everyone knows by now, that Jack and his mother are imprisoned in a single room by Jack’s Ma’s kidnapper, and Jack himself was born into the room (or Room as he knows it) so has never known anything else. Room, and everything in it, is his world. He does watch television although only in small amounts, but he believes everything he sees on TV to be pretend, an idea given to him by Ma, so that he doesn’t feel he is missing out on anything.
This could have been a depressing, almost unreadable book, if not for the fact that it was narrated by Jack himself. I thought the way he narrated the story, and the language he used, particularly giving each object in Room a proper name really gave an insight into how he saw the room as the world. It was ‘Bed’ ‘Wardrobe’ ‘Plant’ etc, just as we would say school, home, work. And once in the outside world, his actions and thoughts are indicative of exactly how difficult it will be for him to adjust to living in society, and how many apparently simple things he will have to learn that come naturally if you’ve grown up in ‘Outside’, as Jack calls it.
“There’s something going zzzzz, I look in the flowers an it’s the most amazing thing, an alive bee that’s huge with yellow and black bits, it’s dancing right inside the flower. ‘Hi’, I say. I put out my finger to stroke it and- Arghhhhhh,”
I liked Jack’s insight into this whole story. And it really was what saved it from being too heart wrenching to read. When the focus is totally on Room, and Ma’s efforts to entertain and educate Jack, it is easy to forget the torment she must be going through cooped up in a small space, repeatedly raped, and being forced to have Jack sleep in the wardrobe, in order for him never to see her kidnapper. But what would her mental state be when they do finally make it out of captivity? And how difficult would it be to read her conversations when she actually has someone else (other than a six year old) to talk to them about.
However, because everything is seen through Jack’s perspective, and because this is so well written, any of the issues and traumas that might be affecting his mother are seen through his eyes. That is, with total bewilderment, and mainly relating to how this affects him, and how he is going to deal with this totally new world in which he has found himself. Issues that she might face are briefly touched upon, and suggested, but filtered through Jack’s odd, stilted language, they become issues to ponder, rather than have it spelt out.
Even though this book is told totally through Jack’s eyes, there is still a strong sense of love that comes through. Jack loves is mother unconditionally, as he would, as he is he only person he speaks to. But the sense of total and unconditional love that ma feels for Jack is portrayed so well, even when the narrative is written from a child’s perspective. Love for Jack is what keeps Ma going, and it is amazing to me the imagination she put in to keeping her child entertained and educated all day, everyday in such a small, claustrophobic space. I think that says lot about the nature of love and motherhood, and in a way, society as a whole.
I can’t really praise this book enough. It kept me gripped all the way through, I was constantly picking it up ‘just to read that little bit more’, and left me thinking bout the whole situation, and about love, and motherhood, and what it really means.