I have to be honest with you all. I watched this film a few years ago, and only got the book this year. It was a wonderful film; beautifully touching, funny and sad in equal measure. And the book is even better.
Jack and his mother live in Room. There’s Bed, and Stove and Bath and Dresser and Skylight and Wardrobe and not much else. It’s Jack’s fifth birthday, but his mum has been stuck in Room for 7 years now. 7 years in a few square metres. Reading this book has come with a new perspective in the Age of Covid, as I watched the film before quarantine was an existing reality. Now that quarantine is a thing we’ve all experienced, the prospect of spending 7 years in a single room becomes even more harrowing. Hell, I couldn’t even manage two days inside without sneaking out for midnight walks (nowhere near anybody, everyone chill out).
Jack and his Ma hatch a plan to get them out of Room. Jack has to play dead so their captor will bring him outside to bury him in the forest, but will it work? Will Jack manage to free his Ma from Room?
This book is all written from the perspective of five-year-old Jack which is a feat in itself, one which I appreciate even more so having spent so much time on characterisation and narrative voice in my MA year. The consistency and clarity of Jack’s voice is incredible, and this novel is incredibly ambitious. It feels like he’s speaking right to you, right through you. Donoghue has managed to seemingly perfectly channel a five-year-old’s grammar, odd word order and made-up onomatopoetic names for things. I’m thinking she absolutely must must must have had young children, or have had some young children in the family at the time. Otherwise she’s superhuman, a voice-channeling genie in the pages of a book.
The plot is taught and breathless towards the middle despite so much of the narrative being spent in Room. The trauma and difficulties of the second half of the book feel real and visceral, as does society’s treatment of women who’ve escaped from these macabre situations; as curiosities, almost freakshows. Room is a book that needs to be read quickly, digested slowly and then marveled at.