It’s lovely to be introducing our second Book Club meeting! We all did so well over the summer, reading Kate Atkinson’s Started Early, Took My Dog despite the blistering British weather (ha!) and I’m dying to see how everyone got on with our next choice, Room by Emma Donoghue.
I chose the book because I thought it would be pretty controversial. Although I found it a really gripping read, I did have a sense of unease throughout the book because it seemed to be capitalising on, and maybe even exploiting, other people’s horrific true experiences. Perhaps this was partly a question of timing, as a couple of recent real-life Room type incidents were fresh in my mind. I realise it would be ridiculous to say books shouldn’t be based on true life events – after all, there are countless stories of love, lust, betrayal, even murder, published every day which closely reflect people’s experiences. I suppose I just felt uneasy as, of course, the story centred on the experience of a child.
One of the most startling things about the book was the way the young mother coped with bringing up an inquisitive, and highly intelligent, child, in such cramped quarters and with so few resources. It made me think of impossible days I’d had with my toddlers, with space all around us, places to go and endless things to do. She seemed to manage phenomenally well and her ingenuity was so impressive. And then, of course, we learn that she has days when she just stays in bed all day, crying or mute, and you see the huge effort that goes into all the other days when she makes herself function for her child’s sake.
The novel was, in a way, a great tribute to the spirit of all mothers, the instinct to protect and cherish a child no matter how awful the circumstances surrounding that child’s conception and upbringing. And then, of course, at the end of the book (without giving too much away) it is when the mother is questioned on whether she was selfish to keep her child with her that she really stares into the abyss.
I thought the characterisation was ingenious – the fact that the man seemed grudging about everything he had to do for his strange family suggested he felt just as trapped as any conventional husband, and, in fact, as trapped as his captives. And I admired the way that the author gradually revealed how strange the boy really was, as a result of his incarceration, through the eyes of his grandmother, the hospital staff and the curious public. The boy’s nostalgia for the simple world of the Room, where he had his mother all to himself, was pitiful.
All in all, I thought it was a compelling read, which raised a lot of questions and made me think.
The very lovely Alison from FiveGoBlogging has sent me her review:
Who would want to read about a teenage girl being kidnapped, held captive for years, being repeatedly raped, conceiving, giving birth in an outbuilding and bringing up a child in one single room? Well me apparently!
The book is narrated by the son of the captive girl who describes his adventures and explores his world in a wonderfully innocent and beautiful way. He tells us about his world in such depth and colour that you would not possibly believe that it is just one room.
On occasion, the boys voice wasn’t quite right and didn’t fit a 5 year old. He used some very advanced vocabulary mixed with some niave words that just jarred for me. But having said that, he isn’t a normal 5 year old is he? I much preferred the first half of the book to the second half, finding that it was just too offhand and not really believable. I did lose interest towards the end but the writing was excellent and a novel I would recommend, if only for the first half of the book!
Pop over to Alison’s site Five Go Blogging for a fuller review.
And what did you think? Let me know in the comments or post me your views at alicemcastle (@ ) hotmail (dot) com. Look forward to hearing all about it :). Next time, we’ll be reading Alison’s suggestion, The Help by Kathryn Stockett, ahead of the release of the film. You’ll love it!