Room (Donoghue)

Emma Donoghue, 2010
Little, Brown & Co.
352 pp.
ISBN-13: 9781443449625

To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it's where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it's not enough...not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son's bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work.

Told entirely in the language of the energetic, pragmatic five-year-old Jack, Room is a celebration of resilience and the limitless bond between parent and child, a brilliantly executed novel about what it means to journey from one world to another. (From the publisher.)

See the 2015 movie with Brie Larson (Oscar winner) and Jacob Trimblay.

Author Bio
Birth—October 24, 1969
Where—Dublin, Ireland
Education—B.A., University College Dublin; Ph.D., Cambridge University
Awards—Irish Book Award
Currently—lives in London, Ontario, Canada

Emma Donoghue was born in Dublin, Ireland, the youngest of eight children. She is the daughter of Frances (nee Rutledge) and academic and literary critic Denis Donoghue. Other than her tenth year, which she refers to as "eye-opening" while living in New York, Donoghue attended Catholic convent schools throughout her early years.

She earned a first-class honours BA from the University College Dublin in English and French (though she admits to never having mastered spoken French). Donoghue went on receive her PhD in English from Girton College at Cambridge University. Her thesis was on the concept of friendship between men and women in 18th-century English fiction.

At Cambridge, she met her future life partner Christine Roulston, a Canadian, who is now professor of French and Women's Studies at the University of Western Ontario. They moved permanently to Canada in 1998, and Donoghue became a Canadian citizen in 2004. She lives in London, Ontario, with Roulston and their two children, Finn and Una.

Donoghue has been able to make a living as a writer since she was 23. Doing so enables her to claim that she's never had an "honest job" since she was sacked after a summer as a chambermaid. In 1994, at only 25, she published first novel, Stir Fry, a contemporary coming of age novel about a young Irish woman discovering her sexuality.

Donoghue is perhaps best known for her 2010 novel, Room—its popularity practically made her a household name. Room spent months on bestseller lists and won the Irish Book Award; it was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, the Orange prize, and  the (Canadian) Governor General's Award. In 2015, the novel was adapted to film. Donoghue wrote the screenplay, which earned her a nomination for an Academy Award, Golden Globe, and Bafta Award.

Since Room, Donoghue has published seven books, her most recent released in 2020—The Pull of the Stars. (Adapted from the author's website and Wikipedia. Retrieved 9/22/2016.)

Book Reviews
Here come the debating points that are embedded in Ms. Donoghue's story. Was the world inside Room somehow safer than the world outside? Will it be damaging for Jack to have to share his mother with new people in her life—or with the people she left behind? Will Ma still be content to do nothing but interact with her frisky son? Is it harder to choose freely from a whole bowl of lollipops than to have no choice at all? Room is sophisticated in outlook and execution, but it's not too complicated to use actual lollipops to frame that theoretical question. Fortunately Ms. Donoghue makes both Ma and Jack too unpredictable for any of those answers to be easy.
Janet Maslin - New York Times

Jack's voice is one of the pure triumphs of the novel: in him, [Donoghue] has invented a child narrator who is one of the most engaging in years—his voice so pervasive I could hear him chatting away during the day when I wasn't reading the book. Donoghue rearranges language to evoke the sweetness of a child's learning without making him coy or overly darling… Through dialogue and smartly crafted hints of eavesdropping, Donoghue fills us in a on Jack's world without heavy hands or clunky exposition…a truly memorable novel…It presents an utterly unique way to talk about love, all the while giving us a fresh, expansive eye on the world in which we live.
Aimee Bender - New York Times Book Review

[O]ne of the most affecting and subtly profound novels of the year.... Not too cute, not too weirdly precocious, not a fey mouthpiece for the author's profundities, Jack expresses a poignant mixture of wisdom, love and naivete that will make you ache to save him—whatever that would mean: Delivering him to the outside world? Keeping him preserved here forever?…until you finish it, beware talking about Room with anyone who might clumsily strip away the suspense that's woven through its raw wonder. You need to enter this small, harrowing place prepared only to have your own world expanded.
Ron Charles - Washington Post

[A] riveting, powerful novel.... Donoghue's inventive storytelling is flawless and absorbing. She has a fantastic ability to build tension in scenes where most of the action takes place in the 12-by-12 room where her central characters reside. Her writing has pulse-pounding sequences that cause the reader's eyes to race over the pages to find out what happens next.... Room is likely to haunt readers for days, if not longer. It is, hands down, one of the best books of the year.
Liz Raftery - Boston Globe

Only a handful of authors have ever known how to get inside the mind of a child and then get what they know on paper. Henry James, Mark Twain, William Faulkner, and, more recently, Jean Stafford and Eric Kraft come to mind, and after that one gropes for names. But now they have company. Emma Donoghue's latest novel, Room, is narrated by a 5-year-old boy so real you could swear he was sitting right beside you.... Room is so beautifully contrived that it never once seems contrived. But be warned: once you enter, you'll be Donoghue's willing prisoner right down to the last page.
Malcolm Jones - Newsweek

[T]he developments in this novel—there are enough plot twists to provide a dramatic arc of breathtaking suspense—are astonishing.... While there have been several true-life stories of women and children held captive, little has been written about the pain of re-entry, and Donoghue's bravado in investigating that potentially terrifying transformation grants the novel a frightening resonance that will keep readers rapt.
Publishers Weekly

Gripping, riveting, and close to the bone, this story grabs you and doesn't let go. Donoghue skillfully builds a suspenseful narrative evoking fear and hate and hope—but most of all, the triumph of a mother's ferocious love. Highly recommended for readers of popular fiction. —Susanne Wells, P.L. of Cincinnati & Hamilton Cty.
Library Journal

Room is beautifully written as a first-person narrative from Jack’s perspective, and within it, Donoghue has constructed a quiet, private, and menacing world that slowly unbends with a mother and son’s love and determination. —Vanessa Bush

Talented, versatile Donoghue relates a searing tale of survival and recovery, in the voice of a five-year-old boy.... Donoghue brilliantly shows mother and son grappling with very different issues as they adjust to freedom....  Wrenching, as befits the grim subject matter, but also tender, touching and at times unexpectedly funny.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
1. Why do you think the entire book is told in Jack’s voice? Do you think it is effective?

2. What are some of the ways in which Jack’s development has been stunted by growing up in Room? How has he benefited?

3. If you were Ma, what would you miss most about the outside world?

4. What would you do differently if you were Jack’s parent? Would you tell Jack about the outside world from the start?

5. If Ma had never given birth to Jack, what would her situation in Room be like?

6. What would you ask for, for Sundaytreat, if you were Jack? If you were Ma?

7. Describe the dynamic between Old Nick and Ma. Why does the author choose not to tell us Old Nick’s story?

8. What does joining the outside world do to Jack? To Ma?

9. What role do you think the media play in the novel?

10. In a similar situation, how would you teach a child the difference between the real world and what they watch on television?

11. Why are we so fascinated by stories of long-term confinement?

12. What were you most affected by in the novel?
(Questions issued by publisher.)

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