Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Room, Emma Donoghue

After completing Emma Donoghue's newest novel, Room, I had to think back to the last time I completed a book in one sitting. I can only think of one book I have ever read from start to finish in a single day, Ian McEwan's Saturday. I loved Saturday. I love Ian McEwan. This is my first experience reading the literature of Donoghue. Her past novels are historical novels. I find their topics unappealing. But, her novels are always praised. I was happy to finally be able to experience a Donoghue novel without the historical pieces.

Room is a novel of disturbing subject matter. The content is loosely based on the real life events of the Fritzl case (a woman imprisoned, raped, and impregnated by her father over the course of 24 years). As I said, disturbing subject matter. But, Donoghue realizes no one wants to read a re-telling. No one is interested in sitting through an imagined play by play of the events. Instead, Donoghue gets creative. The story of the imprisoned woman is told by her (and her captor's) 5 year old son, Jack. The language is simple. The ideas are simple. The story is told from the perspective of someone who has never been outside of a single room. Someone of such a young age the reality of the situation can't possibly be understood. This is how Donoghue keeps her novel from becoming grim.

As I said, I read this novel in one sitting. This is not to say this is a masterpiece. This speaks more to the writing. The simplistic voice of a 5 year old allows for the novel to just keep moving. The pages fall away so quickly. In a matter of hours you are at the heart of the novel and there is no reason to stop. I was afraid that once I stopped, I would struggle to find my place within the novel's world. Room requires a lot of imagination. One has to allow Donoghue a lot of mistakes to really believe all the events taking place. This is to say, the novel is fairly weak.

I would suggest this novel to fans of pop-lit. The subject matter may be dark, but everyone enjoys these disturbing stories when they're on the news. They speak to everyone because they make us question how the world can be so cruel. The playfulness and humor of the narrator are a unique twist for the story. Donoghue takes what could be a very simple narration and gives herself the chore of writing as a child. For most of the novel, this works.


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