Day 6: Last Book Read

I recently read Room by Emma Donoghue. I had read some pretty nice reviews of it, so  had been wanting to get my hands on it for a while. I loved Room. It’s a beautiful novel which must be read in one go for maximum ‘effect’.

Jack, the narrator of the story, is a happy, loving, sometimes-tantrum-throwing, perfectly normal five year old who lives with his Ma in an eleven by eleven room. The circumstances of his life, though, are far from normal.  He was fathered by his mother’s rapist-abductor, Old Nick, who has been holding her captive in this room since the past seven years. This room is all that Jack has ever seen of this world, but he doesn’t know what he is missing. This probably makes it a lot easier for him to be happy– and for Ma to remain sane. Ma is wise to have known this and to have told him that whatever he sees on TV is make-believe–not unlike Dora The Explorer which he is so fond of.

Apart from Ma, Jack shares Room with Bed, Chair, Table, TV, Fridge, Plant, Trashcan and so on. In the absence of the company of living beings, inanimate objects acquire a life of their own in the eyes of this five year old . Common nouns transform into proper nouns and are spelt with a capital letter–which  is why the room is Room. Now anyone who has spent time with kids Jack’s age will know how attached they tend to be to whatever they think is theirs, so it is easy to relate to Jack’s almost-eerie fondness for the objects in the room, given the circumstances.

Old Nick is the only visitor Jack and Ma ever have. He visits often, mostly at night, to bring them provisions and to sleep with Ma. Ma keeps Jack safely out of sight–tucked into his blanket inside Wardrobe, actually– during the entire while Old Nick is in Room. Jack doesn’t know Old Nick is his father, but he does know that Old Nick is a bad man and that is why Ma keeps him hidden in his presence. Old Nick, thankfully, doesn’t seem to mind this at all.

Jack has a keen eye. He notices everything innocently. He notices that every time Old Nick goes to bed, he creaks it repeatedly. Jack even keeps count of the creaks while remaining hidden in the wardrobe. He doesn’t know what the creaks mean but the reader is only too aware of the horror of the situation.

Ma is raising her son to the best of her (extraordinary) ability. She has home-schooled him with great facility and imagination. She makes sure both of them eat well, of course within the constraints of availability. She makes sure both of them get some exercise daily (which consists mostly of running in circles around the room and variations of it). Like any conscientious mother, she tightly limits Jack’s TV time. Mother and son play a number of imaginative games. They sing and they dance together. They manage to pass their time well–at least well enough for Jack. Jack is a perfectly happy and content kid.

But Ma is only human. She can only do so much. There are days when she is assailed by debilitating depression and cannot bring herself to get up from bed or utter a word. On such occasions, when Ma is ‘Gone’, Jack is left pretty much to his own devices until Ma ‘returns’. His innocence and matter-of-fact handling of the situation is poignant.

Eventually the duo do manage to escape (after a series of events that stretch credulity) to the world outside, where an entirely new set of challenges face them, more so for Jack, who must come to terms with a whole new world full of real people, learn whole new sets of skills and most of all, learn to share his Ma with others.

Despite the sombre storyline, Room does not weigh you down. It sparkles with the freshness of a five-year-old’s perspective, startles you and humbles you.  A lovely read.

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11 Responses to Day 6: Last Book Read

  1. Just noticed this post.
    Please ignore my previous comment on your Day 5 post.

    Glad to note you are able to read novels.
    It’s a long time, since I sat down to read a full book at one sitting.
    Most of my reading these days is on a computer screen, tablet screen or a Kindle.
    I got myself a Kindle but have still not finished even a single book on the Kindle.
    I have opened several of them and am mid way through them.

    These days, I have taken a fancy to old Black and White classic films released in the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. I watch them before going to bed.
    You can check out oldmovietime.com where several of these movies are listed and watch them if you have the time.
    “Rebecca”, “Witness for the Prosectuion”, “Anatomy of a Murder” “The Heiress”, “Stagecoach”, “High Noon”, “12 Angry Men” and quite a few more are some of the recently watched films.
    I first “wiki” these movie titles and find out about the plot and watch them if I find they are likely to be interesting.

    Keep going. Will check back tomorrow for your Day 7 post.
    Regards
    GV

    • I am in two minds about Kindle–I realize it will be wonderful to be able to access so many books, anytime, anywhere, at the touch of a button, but I am not sure reading on it will feel the same as reading a real book.

      Thanks for the reference to the old movies site. Have been wanting to watch ‘Rebecca’ for some time. Will check out the others too when time permits.

    • Fem says:

      GV,

      You should also watch Inherit the Wind and Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?, two old movies that deal with the social issues of the time. They are both brilliant and I think you would enjoy them.

  2. Okay now I have to get my hands on this book! 🙂

  3. R's Mom says:

    ah interesting…I should try getting this one!

  4. chattywren says:

    Nice review. I felt such a mixture of emotions on reading this book. For Jack, the room was his normal and for us, those outside, we know it is not. And yet we crib at the most minor discomforts.

    • Very true, chattywren. For me the most touching part was the end, where Jack wants to go back to Room just once, to say goodbye, and Ma reluctantly agrees for his sake. When they reach there, Ma gets nauseous and starts retching in a corner of the yard–this place was, after all, where she spent seven unimaginably horrible years, and it is only very natural that she should react this way. It is entirely different for Jack, of course, who must say a final, loving goodbye to Room and to a precious part of his childhood. It is heartbreaking.

  5. Fem says:

    I have read about similar real life situations, so I’ll skip. Have you read 3096 Days or A Stolen Life? The first one is about Natascha Kampusch and the other is about Jaycee Duggard, both of them kidnapped and imprisoned as children, and then escaped as adults. It’s horrible.

    On another note, are you active on Goodreads?

    • Actually this book really spiked my interest in similar real-life cases. I read up loads on Jaycee Dugard and the recent Cleveland kidnapping case where three young women were miraculously rescued last year after a decade of captivity and abuse. I saw Jaycee Dugard’s interview with Diane Sawyer on youtube.I also found a pdf version of A Stolen Life while trawling the net and read it. It is horrible all right. One is hard-pressed to say who had it worse–Dugard or the Cleveland girls. Dugard spent a longer time–almost two decades to Cleveland victims’ one–in captivity but at least her sexual abuse stopped after her children were born and her captors treated her a little more humanely. The Cleveland girls, on the other hand, survived brutal, relentless abuse, and really terrible living conditions–that they lived to tell their story is a miracle in itself. One thing is clear though–real life is a lot more horrific than fiction 😦

      I am on Goodreads but not really active there..

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