BOOK REVIEW: Room, by Emma Donoghue

Honesty time- I am a picky reader. Or perhaps, it’d better to say I’m a “safe” reader. I tend to stick to the same genres over and over again, being “sure” that I’ll like the book “because it’ll be similar to that book.” But that’s no way to live!

If genres are like ice cream flavours, there is a big, vast array to be eaten out there. I can’t keep digging my spoon into the same tub of sickeningly sweet, safe strawberry. I need to broaden my horizons every once in a while. So, I took a leap of faith, and went for something a bit more dangerous- maybe a rum and raisin? A coconut and peppermint or what have you? (The long and short of it is, I read a book I’d never, ever have considered reading previously).

Room is the bestselling novel by Irish writer Emma Donoghue, which has now been turned into a film. The story is told by five year old Jack, who lives in Room with his ma. The reader doesn’t fully understand the set up at the beginning- he refers to objects as proper nouns, like “Lamp” and “Wardrobe”, and we are unsure about the environment in which he finds himself. As the story opens up, we learn that Jack and Ma are locked in Room, their only visitor being Old Nick, who sometimes appears at night, bringing them supplies. Ma and Jack need to escape, but how? Jack’s never been outside of Room; Room is all he knows. Will they ever escape?

That’s where I’m leaving it, as I really don’t want to spoil the story. It is full of twists and turns! It is also quite possibly one of the greatest books I’ve ever read- it really got me. I was almost in tears behind my desk at work. This book is moving, thoughtfully written and well-crafted. Donaghue has really outdone herself with this work of art.

This book for me was a solid *****/5, hands down. I did not expect to like something so serious, and at times it was uncomfortable to read- the backstory of Ma was a tough one. However, while the plot is interesting, I think the real beauty of this one is the amount of work that had to have went into the book. The psychology of the book is sound, and the way Jack responds to truth and new information is fascinating. I imagine Donoghue spent a long time researching similar cases before she was able to produce such a convincing narrative.

I picked this book up for two reasons- one, to read something different, and two, because Emma Donoghue was actually at my graduation this year!! She received an honorary doctorate from Queen’s University Belfast in July 2017, and because she’s a writer and I’m a humanities graduate, we graduated on the same day. How cool is that? She gave a great speech, and read excerpts from some of her work, including Room, which prompted me to pick the book up. And I am SO glad I did!


Have you read any Donoghue before? I would definitely recommend starting with this one.

A Bientôt,

Amber xx

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