Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Donoghue's Room Tells a Disturbing Story from an Innocent Perspective

Never have I been so disturbed by a book -- or by a website. Conversely, never have I been so intrigued and pulled in by a book.

I didn't think I had any interest in Emma Donoghue's Room. It splashed across the book world last year like a cannonball, inciting interest immediately. Controversial topics usually get headlines, both in movies and in books. Jodi Picoult has become a bestselling author by focusing pretty much solely on controversy in her books. Simply put, scandal sells. However, Donoghue's novel sounded different. She had taken a controversial issue and flipped it on its head. She took the perspective of a five-year-old -- for the entire book.

The two compounded together sounded doubly like something I would not enjoy reading -- controversy, plus child narrator. Yet so many people raved about this book. I first heard about it in Beth Fish Reads' BEA post.

As so many bloggers and reviewers have already dissected Room, I'm just going to give some bullet points of my thoughts, both positive and negative, and then share what others had to say. Although disturbing -- both the book and (possibly) the author's intentions -- it is a book I recommend. I read it entirely in one sitting (as Audrey Niffenegger suggested), and I'm not sorry I did so.

Positive thoughts:
  • Likeable, realistic characters (narrator Jack is a winning little boy, while Ma is an extremely sympathetic character)
  • Well-crafted, interesting plot (which kept me up reading until I finished the entire book in one sitting at 3am)
  • The amazing feat of composing an entire novel from a 5-year-old's perspective and voice is interesting from a stylistic point of view
  • Fast-paced, four sections of a novel that fly by despite the obvious constrictions of such a small (11x11 foot) setting

Negative thoughts:
  • Written almost entirely in the stilted language of a 5-year-old (And is that how 5-year-olds actually talk? Not the kindergartners I know.)
  • Writing tricks at the end allow Donoghue to escape her 5-year-old narrator's voice, while still seeming to stay "in character"
  • Some slightly unbelievable plot points occur
  • The "pulled from the headlines" plot, inspired by the Fritzl case

Other well-written thoughts on Emma Donoghue's Room:

Jen's Book Thoughts: Room - Emma Donoghue
Write Meg!: Book Review: 'Room' by Emma Donoghue
The Book Lady's Blog: In which I comment on the New York Times 10 Best Books of 2010
Book Addiction: Another edition of mini-reviews!
Jenn's Bookshelves: Review: Room by Emma Donoghue
Amused by Books: A Mother's Love
Bookworm With a View: Review: Room
S. Krishna's Books: Book Review: Room - Emma Donoghue
Bibliophile by the Sea: 110 - Room; Emma Donoghue
nomadreader: Booker Dozen 2010: Room by Emma Donoghue
Book Hooked Blog: Book Review: Room by Emma Donoghue

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