Anatomy of a Book: Room by Emma Donoghue

Today I’m five. I was four last night going to sleep in Wardrobe, but when I wake up in Bed in dark I’m changed to five, abracadabra. (p.3)

Room begins as a story about five-year-old Jack and his mother, locked in a Room.

Vegetables are all real but ice cream is TV, I wish it was real too. (p.20)

For Jack the world outside (or Outside as he refers to it) is not real. This is why objects are titled with proper name capitals, such as Wardrobe or Door. He knows of no others. He’s never seen more than clouds through the roof’s skylight.

Ma’s holding me too tight. “I was a student. It was early in the morning…” (p.93)

Then he learns that there is more to the world than Room. That is mother was kidnapped, and has been held in a man’s backyard for seven years.

“We have to get out of here.” I stare at her. “And we have to do it all ourselves.” (p.105)

And through Jack the story of how he and his mother survive in Room, stay sane, and plan their escape is told. The story is about Jack, and his view on the world and dealing with the life he had led.

It’s worth noting that this is not a metaphor for life in general. At a point when Jack is outside Room, it can be read that the book mocks that potential interpretation. And, as revealed there, Jack does eventually escape. This fact that doesn’t make events leading to it less tense and I think is best known. This is because the book is not solely about Room, or existing in Room. It is mostly about Jack’s experiences, and about letting go.

It is a great read, for these reasons…

Changing Status:

Jack moves from living in Room to living outside.

High Stakes:

If he doesn’t leave Room he’ll likely die. Once this problem is resolved the book loses some momentum, yet is still enjoyable. It could be enhanced if Jack had to fight for independence or something.

Believable Characters:

Little details and mistakes make Jack and other characters real. A lot of thought has gone into making Jack’s opinions mirror those of a real five-year-old. Some characters do feel placed there for effect, though this is a minor gripe.


Time Pressure:

Like how Matthew Reilly writes, here uses short sentences that swiftly move the story. There are few moments, if any, that could be condensed or feel the need for expanding. In fact close to every day for a month is outlined in the book, and it feels to happen fast. Particularly some of first Outside experiences.



How to survive and stay sane living in a single room. And how to appreciate the world we on the Outside know.


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