Monday, November 15, 2010
Room by Emma Donoghue
Shortlisted for the 2010 Booker Prize, Room has a glorious initial premise: it's a first-person narration by a five-year-old boy (Jack) who's held hostage in a tiny backyard shed by a brutal man (Old Nick) who kidnapped Jack's mother (Ma) when she was nineteen and raped her repeatedly. Jack has spent his entire life in the shed, with only a skylight window. And the novel opens on Jack's fifth birthday, where his mother has decided Jack's finally just barely old enough to help her in a desperate attempt to escape.
Whew. Writes itself, right? Jack's voice is marvelous throughout. It reminded me of Roddy Doyle's Paddy Clarke Ha ha. And for some reason a little of Flowers for Algernon.
The book is in two parts: Inside and Outside. Though the voice of Jack, and the character of his Ma are consistently strong and engaging, the plot suffers once they get Out. We miss Old Nick's malevolent presence just off screen. Of course, Jack must learn the entire world, which is what makes the second half interesting. He knew of only two other people in existence. He had never been outside, seen sky, walk up a step.