Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Room - Emma Donoghue

This book has been all over "Best of 2010" lists - I requested it months ago at the library and it finally came in for me. I had no idea what it was about - though I anticipate that by now most readers will. The author has indicated that this book is based on the real-life horror story of Josef Fritzl who sexually abused his daughter and kept her locked in a room for 24 years, fathering 7 children before she finally escaped. In Room, the victim was kidnapped at the age of 17 and kept for about 8 years. She is raising her 5-year old son, Jack, in the room. While they have access to a television, she chooses to raise him to believe that their room is the world, and that everything on television is make-believe. The book is written from Jack's perspective - in general, while I am impressed by authors who try to get into the head of a child or a mentally disturbed person, or someone other than the "average" or "reasonable" person, I think this is incredibly difficult to pull off without getting annoying. The difficulty here is magnified by the fact that not only is the narrator a 5-year old, but a 5-year old who has not been exposed to so much that the rest of us take for granted. Contrasting Jack's better than average knowledge of language, math, and other skills - with his social retardation also presents an added challenge. Given the subject matter of this book, it made my skin crawl and I can't say that I found it at all enjoyable. I wouldn't recommend this book because it's just too depressing and unnecessary in so many ways. At the same time, I think Donoghue accomplished what she set out to do - which is to thoroughly and honestly explore this strange phenomenon and the effects of isolation.

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