Room by Emma Donoghue

Posted February 22, 2016 by Taryn in Reviews / 0 Comments

Room by Emma DonoghueRoom by Emma Donoghue
Published by Little, Brown on September 13th 2010
Genres: Fiction, General
Pages: 336
Format: eBook

Holy crap! This one hit me right in the gut. I have never had more anxiety while reading than during the rising action and climax of this book. Heart-pounding, have-to-look-away-from-the-page-because-it-is just-too-much-to-handle-type anxiety. I went into this book only knowing the general circumstances of why Ma and Jack were in Room. I would recommend knowing as little as possible, so a large part of this review is under spoiler tags.

“‘Human kind cannot bear very much reality.’”

Jack just turned five and he has a great life. He spends every day with his Ma and they have so much fun together. But Ma isn’t always as happy as Jack. Sometimes she gets sad and has to spend the whole day in bed. Ma says they can’t live like this much longer and they need to leave their 11’x11′ room. Jack protests, but Ma insists there is a huge, wonderful world right outside their door.

Room has been on my to-read list since it came out, but I never got around to reading it. It was getting harder to avoid spoilers because of the movie release and award show season, so I figured now was as good a time as any! I’m probably one of the last people on earth to read this book, but I think it came into my life at the right time. I don’t know if I would have had the same visceral reaction in 2008.

Before I didn’t even know to be mad that we can’t open Door, my head was too small to have Outside in it. When I was a little kid I thought like a little kid, but now I’m five I know everything.

  • Reading the narration of a five-year-old boy is the biggest hurdle to overcome with this book: inconsistent speech patterns, stream-of-consciousness, and anthropomorphizing inanimate objects. I heard the voice of the actor who plays Jack in the movie, so I read the book in his voice. I think doing that made it a more natural reading experience for me.
  • You really have to read between the lines of Jack’s narration. Jack’s voice shields us from some of the most brutal aspects of Room. Jack is an innocent and doesn’t see anything strange about his life or some of the weird games they play (Keypad!). His Ma has done an amazing job protecting him, despite their difficult situation.
  • Room is beautiful testament to motherhood. Not only has Ma created an environment that makes Jack feel safe, but she is so creative in keeping a routine and educating him. When Jack describes his day, you witness the education she is sneaking in through everyday activities. They waste as little as possible and she is so resourceful in making toys with Jack.

Giants can be just as bad, be he alive or be he dead I’ll grind his bones to make my bread, but Jack ran away with the golden hen and he was slithering down the Beanstalk quick quick. The Giant was climbing down after him but Jack shouted to his Ma for the ax, that’s like our knives but bigger, and his Ma was too scared to chop the Beanstalk on her own but when Jack got to the ground they did it together and the Giant went smash with all his insides coming out, ha ha. Then Jack was Jack the Giant Killer.

  • I loved how Donoghue incorporated stories we all share: Jack in the Beanstalk, Alice in Wonderland, The Count of Monte Cristo, the Bible, etc. Ma’s story is extreme and specific, but the use of these stories help the reader relate Ma’s personal struggles to universal themes. “Stories are a different kind of true.”
  • I was really surprised that the major shift in the book occurred at the halfway point! It is mostly a character book overall, but the first half has a plot-driven thriller-like aspect. The second half is completely character-driven.

The rest of my points are huge spoilers and the tags aren’t working in this review, so I will have to direct you to my Goodreads review for the rest: Full Review for Room on Goodreads

Room is an emotional, uniquely-told story about growing up and the bond between a mother and child. It deeply affected me and I refuse to believe Ma and Jack aren’t real. 😉


I couldn’t stop thinking about this book after I read it, so we ended up seeing the movie at the theater the weekend after I read it. It was so good! The letter the director Lenny Abrahamson wrote to the author as his request to direct the movie gives you some insight into how seriously he took this adaptation! Emma Donoghue wrote the screenplay and she knew just what to combine, trim and substitute to keep the major themes of the book intact. (There is nothing I hate more than a book adaptation that hits all the plot points, but loses the point.) The movie is a wonderful complement to the book. If you weren’t a huge fan of the book, depending on the reasons, you might enjoy the movie more. Also: If you are bringing someone with you that isn’t familiar with the story, don’t let them watch the trailer! It shows the whole story. I was worried when I brought my husband, because I was going to be a little irrationally hurt if he didn’t like it! Thankfully, he loved it!


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