Review: Room by Emma Donoghue

Author: Emma Donoghue
Genre: Adult Contemporary Fiction
Page Length: 321 pages
Publication Date: September 13, 2010
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Source: Borrowed via library
To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it's where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it's not enough...not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son's bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work.

Told entirely in the language of the energetic, pragmatic five-year-old Jack, Room is a celebration of resilience and the limitless bond between parent and child, a brilliantly executed novel about what it means to journey from one world to another.
Recently, my reading tastes have been finicky.  Although I want to read more, I find myself taking ages before I finally cease reading back covers, excerpts, and Goodreads reviews, and instead, sit down and settle on a book.  Taking the recommendation of one of my school librarians, I checked out Emma Donoghue's "Room" and brought this novel home with me one afternoon.

"Room" is the story of a mother and son duo, Jack and Ma, and their journey from confinement in a small shed called "Room" to eventual freedom.  Jack's mother, or simply "Ma" as he likes to call her, was kidnapped in her teens by her perpetrator referred to as "Old Nick"—and has been stuck in Room ever since.  After a number of years into Ma's captivity, she gave birth to Jack.  Our story begins a few more years down the road when Jack's five.

Fellow book reviewers have called this book everything from "boring" to "plotless," but I found the Donoghue's book to (mostly) be the opposite.  Based off of the reviews and feedback I've read and heard, a significant amount of people seems to dislike the story being told from Jack's point of view, as he often goes off on tangents and talks about seemingly pointless topics.  Told from young Jack's point of view, "Room" is a quick, easy-to-understand read.

To the contrary, I consider the story being told from Jack's POV to be a strong suit of the novel.  I've never read a book told from a five-year-old's perspective, so it was interesting to get into the mind of a young boy in such a horrible situation.  Readers have the privilege of seeing Room from Jack's eyes: to Jack, Room is not confinement or imprisonment.  Room is Jack's home and his whole world.

Besides being told from Jack's perspective, I also liked that the story wasn't solely about Jack and Ma's escape.  Although Jack and Ma's journey to freedom is an important aspect of the novel, I don't consider it to be the main purpose of the book.  Rather, Room is about Jack and Ma's special mother and son connection and how their bond is tested yet strengthened throughout their difficult life experiences.

Honestly, Room won't appeal to everyone, but if you don't go into this book hoping for an action-packed plot centering around the main storyline of escape, I don't think you'll be disappointed either.

Julia's a dreamer. She often zones off periodically throughout the day thinking up plans for the future, pining over fictional characters, and concocting up possible plot lines for stories.

You can find Julia on her main blog, Peach Print, on Twitter @peachprint, on Instagram @yapeach, and of course, right here on the APCB blog.


  1. I never understood why people didn't like this book either! I read it when I was in middle school and I loved it right away because it was from Jack's perspective. It's kind of like The Book Thief being narrated by Death, you know (although slightly less strange). It presents something different, like you said, and makes it so much more interesting! Lovely review, Julia :)

    Laura @BlueEyeBooks

  2. I also found Jack's voice and narration to be really interesting, I thought it added a fresh perspective on the world that not many books explore. However I am one of those people who see it as boring and uneventful, unfortunately! I know Donoghue tries to focus on the characters and relationships (as you said) but doesn't actually manage to make the story interesting solely by focusing on Jack and Ma. I also wrote a review and would love to know what you think and discuss it! :)

  3. This sounds like such a great story! I'm definitely going to give it a try. Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! <3 (Welcome back Julia! I've missed you and your wonderful posts! <3)

  4. This book was recommended to me by a middle schooler. I have to pick it up at some point. I loved learning more about it from you. Sounds like an interesting read. :)

  5. I've been curious about this book and Emma Donoghue's work in general since I see her books come up a lot. I've been hesitant to try Room for similar reasons that you listed, responses seem extremely hit or miss and seemingly more of the latter. I like the idea of a unique perspective from Jack, it's an important aspect in abuse cases to consider for children born into these sorts of terrible environments not knowing any better because it's the only life they've ever known. I might consider picking the book up eventually to see for myself, so thank you for the review.


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