Summary and book reviews of Room by Emma Donoghue

Room

A Novel

By Emma Donoghue

Room
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  • Hardcover: Sep 2010,
    336 pages.
    Paperback: May 2011,
    352 pages.

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Book Summary

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.

Excerpt
Room

When she spits the second time it's my go with Toothbrush, I scrub each my teeth all the way around. Ma's spit in Sink doesn't look a bit like me, mine doesn't either. I wash them away and make a vampire smile.

"Argh." Ma covers her eyes. "Your teeth are so clean, they're dazzling me."

Her ones are pretty rotted because she forgetted to brush them, she's sorry and she doesn't forget anymore but they're still rotted.

I flat the chairs and put them beside Door against Clothes Horse. He always grumbles and says there's no room but there's plenty if he stands up really straight. I can fold up flat too but not quite as flat because of my muscles, from being alive. Door's made of shiny magic metal, he goes beep beep after nine when I'm meant to be switched off in Wardrobe.

God's yellow face isn't coming in today, Ma says he's having trouble squeezing through the snow.

"What snow?"

"See," she says, pointing up.

There's a little bit of light at Skylight's top,...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Why do you think the entire book is told in Jack’s voice? Do you think it is effective?
  2. What are some of the ways in which Jack’s development has been stunted by growing up in Room? How has he benefited?
  3. If you were Ma, what would you miss most about the outside world?
  4. What would you do differently if you were Jack’s parent? Would you tell Jack about the outside world from the start?
  5. If Ma had never given birth to Jack, what would her situation in Room be like?
  6. What would you ask for, for Sundaytreat, if you were Jack? If you were Ma?
  7. Describe the dynamic between Old Nick and Ma. Why does the author choose not to tell us Old Nick’s story?
  8. What does joining the outside world do to Jack? To ...
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  • award image

    Indie Booksellers’ Choice Awards
    2011

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Reviews

BookBrowse

When I finished this brilliant novel, besides being as locked into its story and world as Jack and Ma were in Room, I had no idea how I would review it. I was convinced there was nothing I could say about it without the entire review being one big spoiler. For me, what made Room so great was that I never knew from page to page what would happen next. Finding out what happens next made it one of the best thrillers I have ever read. I want every reader to experience that... By filtering [Room's] themes through the eyes and mind of a child, Donoghue lays on the patina of a fairy tale. She also illustrates the power of mothering and the heroism of ordinary people. These are just some of the ways we triumph over a world full of terrors.   (Reviewed by Judy Krueger).

Full Review Members Only (923 words).

Media Reviews
Author Blurb Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler's Wife and Her Fearful Symmetry
Emma Donoghue's writing is superb alchemy, changing innocence into horror and horror into tenderness. Room is a book to read in one sitting. When it's over you look up: the world looks the same but you are somehow different and that feeling lingers for days.

Author Blurb Anita Shreve, author of The Pilot's Wife and A Change in Altitude
I loved Room. Such incredible imagination, and dazzling use of language. And with all this, an entirely credible, endearing little boy. It's unlike anything I've ever read before.

Author Blurb Michael Cunningham, author of The Hours and By Nightfall
Room is that rarest of entities, an entirely original work of art. I mean it as the highest possible praise when I tell you that I can't compare it to any other book. Suffice to say that it's potent, darkly beautiful, and revelatory.

The Irish Independent

This is Beckett for beginners, seen through the eyes of a child with no expectation of anything else. It takes a consummate writer to make us marvel at the mundane. Beckett's Waiting for Godot did it, of course. So did Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, set in a 1950s Siberian labour camp. Emma Donoghue does it so spectacularly...

Telegraph - Jonathan Gibbs

Does the novel give a genuine insight into what it’s like to go through such an ordeal? Maybe that’s going too far, but as a life-affirming fable of parent-child love, and an antidote to the prurience of so much crime fiction, it’s a triumph, and deserves to be a hit.

The Guardian - Nicola Barr

In the hands of this audacious novelist, Jack's tale is more than a victim-and-survivor story: it works as a study of child development, shows the power of language and storytelling, and is a kind of sustained poem in praise of motherhood and parental love.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. Talented, versatile Donoghue relates a searing tale of survival and recovery.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Donoghue brilliantly portrays the psyche of a child raised in captivity, the story's intensity cranks up dramatically when, halfway through the novel and after a nail-biting escape attempt, Jack is introduced to the outside world.

Library Journal

Gripping, riveting, and close to the bone, this story grabs you and doesn't let go.

New York Times - Janet Maslin

Room never loses track of this boy’s utterly plausible, vividly described thought processes.

Reader Reviews
Jan

Language of child just not right
I can't stop thinking about this story - and that is a compliment. Although I couldn't put it down, I cringed my way through the child language that just is not realistic for a 5 year old child in that situation. The author herself, in the author ...   Read More

jodi

Room
I don't see how people think this book was boring or a waste of time. I think it was an amazing lesson to what life could of been like if you were like that....truly amazing!

Louise J

Boring!
I don’t really know what to say about this book. I do know that I’m disappointed as I don’t think it lived up to all the hype and hoopla that was generated by the public, but then again, I’m only one person. Obviously this just wasn’t the book for ...   Read More

Katharine English

Enough Already
Daring to go against the wildly enthusiastic critical acclaim of this novel, may I, as an English/Literature Major and teacher, offer the opinion that the book, Room (the story of a five-year-old boy and his mother held against her will by her ...   Read More

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Emma Donoghue

Emma DonoghueEmma Donoghue is an award-winning Irish writer who lives in Canada. She has published seven novels, three collections of short stories, three works of non-fiction and various productions for stage, radio and screen. 

In her own words: "Born in Dublin, Ireland, in October 1969, I am the youngest of eight children of Frances and Denis Donoghue (the literary critic, Henry James Professor at New York University). I attended Catholic convent schools in Dublin, apart from one eye-opening year in New York at the age of ten.  In 1990 I earned a first-class honours BA in English and French from University College Dublin (unfortunately, without learning to actually speak French). I moved to England, and in 1997 ...

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