Short-listed for the Orange Prize and selling over 13,000 copies in one week. Is the hype surrounding Emma Donoghue’s Room due to great writing or to its inspiration: the Josef Fritzel abuse case?

Though Donoghue admits that the novel was ‘triggered’ by the real life event: it is not a detailed account of abuse. Instead, it is told through the eyes of Jack, a five-year-old boy, whose only experience of life has been inside a tiny fortified shed, with his mother.

This stunted experience of the world is what makes the novel unique. The mother-son relationship is explored in intense emotional depth through the simplest of narration. The issues of abuse are kept at arm’s length, allowing the reader to experience the gravity of the horror in the subtlest of ways while the protagonist is innocently oblivious.

Though the mother is a strong and believable character, the occasional language slip detracts from Jack’s credibility, and the childish narrative voice becomes irksome at times.

The pacing is unconventional, with a fairly slow beginning that escalates into an unexpected climax before the long – but interesting – denouement. Unfortunately, a few pivotal plot moments push the boundaries of suspended disbelief.

Despite these distractions, Room should be applauded for its experimentation. It’s definitely a page-turner and an inspiration for debate.

Room is available from Picador for £7.99 in paperback.

3 1/2 Stars


About The Author

Sophie Playle is currently studying for an MA in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, University of London. She previously worked in the publishing industry.

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