Book Recommendation: Room, by Emma Donoghue

20 Jan

Room, by Emma Donoghue

“In the world I notice persons are nearly always stressed and have no time … I guess the time gets spread very thin like butter all over the world, the roads and houses and playgrounds and stores, so there’s only a little smear of time on each place, then everyone has to hurry on to the next bit.”
— Emma Donoghue (Room)

Emma Donoghue’s latest novel, Room, tells the story of a child and his mother, held captive by a mysterious man named “Old Nick.” The story is told from the viewpoint of five-year-old Jack.

What I most enjoy about this story is what some readers find most frustrating: the voice of the child narrator. Jack (who was born inside the room and has been there ever since) looks at the world through a narrow lens, and his viewpoint is –well, shiny. Jack sees his world in a kind of Technicolor.  For Jack, everything is alive, from the mouse and spider in the room to inanimate objects like the blanket, bed, and wardrobe. Donoghue weaves references to psychological object relations theory here, as we begin to see that Ma and the room are the world for Jack –and as we see how Jack, a usual boy, must develop in this unusual environment. In seeing the room through Jack’s eyes, we come to see the world differently too. The closeness of it all–the room and Ma and the familiarity of each day– become a kind of womb.

While the narration may not be 100% realistic for a five-year-old and while Jack does have an inconsistent vocabulary, I find that I like following his point of view though the world. I like seeing the room and the world through Jack’s bright vision, and I like seeing what happens as his world changes.

It’s a worthwhile read — for writers interested in a study of point of view, for psychologically-minded folk, and for those hoping for a new way to see the world. As Proust once said, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” If this is true, Room, I believe, can help us get a bit closer to a new kind of sight.

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One Response to “Book Recommendation: Room, by Emma Donoghue”

  1. Nora B. Peevy February 3, 2011 at 10:01 pm #

    Hi Kathryn,

    I am going to check out this book.

    Nice to see you blogging.

    -Nora

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